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The Best Ways to Say “I’m Sorry” in Afrikaans

Apologizing by saying “I’m sorry,” in Afrikaans, or any other language, is a very important relationship skill to have. It can make or break things between people, meaning that learning how to say sorry when learning Afrikaans is so important.

How do you say sorry in Afrikaans? There are many ways of expressing “sorry” in South Africa.

Saying “I’m sorry” in Afrikaans has different applications, and its use depends on circumstances, situations, etc. Sometimes it sounds like an apology, but it’s actually a sort of interjection used to smoothe over interactions in different social situations. Other times, it’s a sincere apology for a transgression. As said, this is a very important relationship skill that no close partnership or friendship can do without.

Learn at AfrikaansPod101 how to say “I’m sorry” in Afrikaans, and other ways of saying an apology in Afrikaans.

Couple with Man Offering Apology

Here, we’ll look at the different types of apologies with their social and linguistic nuances, and give examples of when and how to use each one. Consider this your “Sorry in Afrikaans” dictionary!

Saying sorry in Afrikaans words can become tricky, so let’s start with the easiest application. Start with a bonus, and download your FREE cheat sheet – How to Improve Your Afrikaans Skills! (Logged-In Member Only)

  1. Jammer, Verskoon my & Askies
  2. “I’m Sorry” or “Ek is jammer”
  3. 3. Ways AfrikaansPod101 Can Help You to Say “I’m Sorry” in Afrikaans

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1. Jammer, Verskoon my & Askies

3 Ways to Say Sorry

“Sorry” in Afrikaans is an apology that’s used pretty much the same way as in English. It’s often used as an interjection of sorts that serves mostly to indicate an acknowledgement of another person’s possible situation or feeling. Below is a “Sorry” in Afrikaans translation.

Tip: If you need to apologize for a serious transgression, this would not be the go-to apology!

Afrikaans: Jammer or Verskoon my or Askies.
Translation: “Sorry” or “Pardon me” or “Excuse me.”

Jammer, Verskoon my, or Askies can be used interchangeably, mostly based on the situation. In casual scenarios, and when addressing people you know, Jammer and Askies are most suitable. In formal situations, or when talking to strangers, Verskoon my is more appropriate. However, the distinction isn’t terribly important, and you won’t land in trouble if you mix up these three.

1- Situational Use

Like the British, the Afrikaans people consider it polite to apologize for nearly everything. It’s become part of their reflexive, interpersonal repertoire that seems rather odd, once you start analyzing it!

One psychologist speculates that people who apologize for everything might have a hard time differentiating between situations that do (or don’t) require an apology, or they may not fully understand how significant an apology to a loved one is.

Yet, whatever the reasons are behind reflexively saying sorry, knowing how the different forms are used in Afrikaans will help you understand the native speakers better, even if you choose not to apologize over every little thing yourself!

Open Hand with the Word Sorry Written on the Palm

1.) The Afrikaans people often use jammer to get someone’s attention and to apologize for disturbing them—a throwback to good manners in an excruciatingly polite English society. (Afrikaans culture is still very British.)

Example: Verskoon my, maar kan jy my sê hoe laat dit is asseblief?
Translation: “Excuse me, but could you tell me the time, please?”

Another example:

Example: Jammer, maar kan jy my verduidelik hoe om by die lughawe te kom, asseblief? (Here, Verskoon my would also be appropriate.)
Translation: “Sorry, could you direct me to the airport, please?”

In this instance, jammer stands in the place of this phrase: Jammer om jou te pla of Verskoon my dat ek pla, which literally means: “Sorry to disturb you” or “Excuse me for disturbing you.”

You could use the whole phrase, instead of only jammer. As you should see, these can be understood as polite ways of getting someone’s attention.

2.) There are more ways to apologize for a possible inconvenience caused, or to indicate understanding of someone’s discomfort. Again, this isn’t the best way to apologize if you need to say sorry in Afrikaans for a serious transgression, discomfort, or inconvenience.

Example: Jammer, maar ons het nie jou grootte skoen in die winkel nie. (Here, jammer can be replaced with askies, a more informal term.)
Translation: “Sorry, but we don’t have your size shoe in the shop.”

Another example:

Example: (When your cell phone rings at the dinner table, and it’s an urgent call.) Jammer, maar ek moet gou hierdie oproep neem. Ek sal nou terug wees.
Translation: “Sorry, I have to take this call, but I will be back soon.”

And then it’s important to return to your meeting or date as soon as possible! Sometimes interference can’t be helped, but in most situations, it’s considered impolite, even insensitive to interrupt or leave a meeting or date to take a phone call.

In this instance, Jammer takes the place of Ek is jammer vir enige ongerief, translated as “I’m sorry for any inconvenience.” It’s not common to use the long phrase to excuse yourself.

2. “I’m Sorry” or “Ek is jammer”

Say Sorry

Afrikaners use this sentence a bit differently than Jammer, but not much. From this phrase, you can also create more sincere apologies, like “I’m very sorry,” in Afrikaans.

1- Situational Use

Ek’s jammer, which is a contraction like “I’m sorry” (for “I am sorry” ) in Afrikaans, can be used interchangeably with Jammer, but there’s a subtle difference in nuance. This mostly depends on why you use it, meaning it will depend on what the situation is.


1. Casual Situational Use

Ek is jammer, or the contraction Ek’s jammer, can replace Jammer in all of the aforementioned samples. Use it when apologizing for something you should logically not have to say sorry for, as a show of being culturally correct! It is, as said, considered polite to use Jammer this way in Afrikaans, and it will show some sensitivity for the conversational culture on your side.

2. Other Situational Use

Apology for Harm Done

If you have, logically and clearly, caused someone inconvenience or discomfort, and it is appropriate to apologize, these two phrases are more appropriate to use than only Jammer.

However, even here we have subtle nuances which will determine how you use it.

That said—none of these are more important than heart-felt intent. It’s best to never underestimate the power of an apology when you were clearly in the wrong.

If your transgression is really not that serious, meaning that you haven’t caused any serious harm, you’ll probably use the contraction.

Example: (You’re late for your plane, and running to the terminal, you bump into someone. Fortunately, they are unharmed.) Ek’s jammer!
Translation: “I’m sorry!”

Another example:

Example: (You arrive fifteen-twenty minutes late for a date with an Afrikaans friend. Not a serious transgression, but you did keep them waiting.) Ek’s jammer ek is laat!
Translation: “I’m sorry I’m late!”

However, if you’ve caused someone serious inconvenience or hurt them intentionally or unintentionally, use the full phrase to say you’re sorry. This is a way of saying “I am really sorry” in Afrikaans, or “I am very sorry” in Afrikaans.

Couple with Woman Saying Sorry

Example: (After a fight.) Ek is jammer ek het my humeur verloor. Dit was onaanvaarbaar van my en ek wil nie baklei nie.
Translation: “I am sorry I lost my temper. It was unacceptable behavior on my part and I don’t want to fight.”

You may even want to add the adverb werklik as a sub-modifier to emphasize heartfelt regret, as in:

Example: Ek is werklik jammer ek het my humeur verloor. Dit was onaanvaarbaar van my en ek wil nie baklei nie. (You could also replace werklik with regtig, which is a bit more casual in nuance and closer to “really” in meaning.)
Translation: “I’m truly sorry I lost my temper. It was unacceptable behavior on my part and I don’t want to fight.”

You could use these phrases effectively in an apology letter in Afrikaans, or better perhaps, a card.

Another example:

Example: Ek is jammer ek het jou kar gestamp. Ek sal dit laat regmaak.
Translation: “I’m sorry I bumped your car. I will have it fixed.”

3. Apology to Offer Condolences

In English-speaking cultures, it’s definitely appropriate to use an apologetic form to express condolences or sympathy. This is the same in Afrikaans. It’s a way of expressing caring and empathy.

For example:

Example: Ek is jammer jy het nie die werk gekry nie.
Translation: “I’m sorry you didn’t get the job.”

Or, if someone close to your Afrikaans colleague or friend passes away, you express condolences this way:

Example: Ek is werklik jammer om te hoor van jou verlies. Laat weet gerus as ek kan help met enigiets.
Translation: “I’m truly sorry for your loss. Please let me know if I can help with anything.”

Tip: Offer help only if you do mean to assist. It’s a wonderful way to let the bereft feel supported. However, be discerning if a request for money is made. Asking for money for a funeral (or for personal use) from strangers is not a cultural habit in South Africa, but unfortunately, opportunists could take advantage of well-meaning foreigners. Don’t feel bad to politely decline financial assistance, or, alternatively, offer only a small sum.

If you want to avoid this potential problem, you could offer condolences this way:

Example: Ek is werklik jammer om te hoor van jou verlies. Ek dink aan jou.
Translation: “I’m truly sorry for your loss. You’re in my thoughts.”

If you want to comfort someone when they’re ill, or are clearly upset about something, you can also express empathy using “I am sorry” in Afrikaans.

Two Woman, One Comforting the Other

Example: Ek is jammer jy voel so sleg. Ek hoop jy voel gou beter.
Translation: “I’m sorry you feel so bad. I hope you feel better soon.”

3. Ways AfrikaansPod101 Can Help You to Say “I’m Sorry” in Afrikaans

We hope you enjoyed our article on how to say sorry in Afrikaans language! Do you feel more confident about how to say “I’m sorry” in Afrikaans, or are there still some things you’re fuzzy on? Can you think of any creative ways to say sorry in Afrikaans? Let us know in the comments!

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