Please and thank you (and sorry), part II: you’re sorry, so sorry

As in English, in Arabic there are two usual ways to apologize (and I mean a real apology for having wronged someone, not in the sense of “pardon me,” which we’ll cover in a later post), the simple “I’m sorry” and the more emphatic/formal “I apologize.” These two words, “sorry” and “apologize,” though they are very closely related, come from two completely different roots. “Sorry” comes from the Old English sārig, whose root also gives us words like “sore” and “sorrow,” and means to be pained or distressed. “Apology” comes from the Greek apologos, from which we also get apologia, and which means “to speak in defense.” As it is in English, so it is in Arabic.

Without a doubt, you will be much more likely to use and hear “I’m sorry,” which is أنا آسِف (anā āsif), or just آسِف (āsif). This comes from the root اسف (asafa), meaning “to regret” or “to feel sorry for” something. It’s not often encountered as a verb, but the verbal noun آسف is very common. This is a simple declarative sentence, with the verb “to be,” which you should recall is almost always just implied in Arabic when in present tense, so this is a literal translation, not an idiomatic one. “I am sorry about that” would be أنا آسِف لِذٰلِك (anā āsif li-dhālik). Much less frequently used (in Arabic, but important in Persian) is مُتأسِف (mutaʾassif), the active participle of the form V of اسف, which is reflexive and really emphasizes the idea that I, myself, am sorry.

However, if you want to sound more formal or be more emphatic, you may want to say that you apologize. In this case you will turn to the root عذر (ʿadhara), which itself means “to absolve from guilt” or “to excuse.” Form VIII of that root, and remember that form VIII usually has a reflexive meaning, is اِعتَذَرَ (iʿtadhara), and with its reflexive aspect it means “to absolve oneself from guilt” or “to excuse oneself”; i.e., to speak in one’s own defense, or “to apologize.” “I apologize to you” would be أعتَذَرُ لِكُم (aʿtadharu likum) while “I apologize for this (that)” would be أعتَذَرُ مِن هٰذا (aʿtadharu min hādhā). “Apology” is اِعتِذار (iʿtidhār), and “I offer my apology” would be أقدَمُ اِعتِذاري (aqdamu iʿtidhārī).

If you’re just saying a quick “Sorry!”, you may want some variation of عذر, either عذراً (ʿadhran) or مَعذِرةً (maʿdhiratan).


One thought on “Please and thank you (and sorry), part II: you’re sorry, so sorry

  1. Pingback: Please and thank you (and sorry), part IV: forgive me | Arabic Word a Day

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