Please and thank you (and sorry), part III: excuse me, pardon me

For situations where a milder form of apology is needed, we might say something like “excuse me” or “pardon me.” In Arabic the usual exclamation for a situation like this is something we’ve already encountered: عَفواً (ʿafwan), which is used as a response to شُكراً (shukran), “thank you,” the way we English speakers might say “you’re welcome” or “don’t mention it.” عَفواً is actually more properly used here, to mean “excuse me” or “pardon me,” given that it comes from a root, عَفا (ʿafā), that means “to excuse” or “to pardon.”

There is, however, a second root that can be employed here: عذر (ʿadhara), which means “to excuse” or “to absolve from guilt.” Instead of عَفواً, you could say مَعذَرةً (maʿadharatan) or اعذَرَني (aʿdharanī); the latter uses the first person objective pronoun ending ني. Someone who is excused would be called مَعذور (maʿdhūr).

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