Let’s start with Com licença (lit. “with license”). Just like “Excuse me”, you can say Com licença when reaching across someone, making your way through a crowd, or getting up from the dinner table.

However, you may be surprised to learn that you can also say it as a sign of respect when entering someone’s home, closing the door, or hanging up the phone. It’s almost like you’re asking for permission (license) to do something, but without actually waiting for a response.

The next way to say “Sorry” or “Excuse me” has 3 forms: Desculpe (formal), Desculpa (informal), and Desculpem (directed at more than 1 person). The literal translation is Forgive / Excuse, as it comes from the verb desculpar (to excuse). Desculpe (and its variants) are handy in contexts such as apologizing for a mistake or wrongdoing, getting someone’s attention, making your way through a crowd, and if you didn’t hear what someone said.

Sinto muito (lit. “I really feel”) also means “I’m sorry”, but it’s for expressing sympathy, not apologizing. You might say it to someone who is sick, had a death in the family, or just had a bad day. Lamento (lit. “I lament”) is another option to express sympathy, or to give someone bad news, much like “I regret (to inform you)“.

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