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I recently came back from Paris and while there if someone happened to bump me they would say 'pardon' instead of 'désolé' or 'excusez-moi' as I was taught to say in French classes.

My understanding is that 'excusez-moi' is used in preparation for a question, 'désolé' is used with sincerest apologies and 'pardon' is a request to be excused from a simple mistake or to move past someone in a crowd.

Is this correct?

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    Reminds me of an early encounter with French at a hotel in Québec... A little girl running down the hall bumped into me and squeaked two syllables: "Scusez!"
    – Luke Sawczak
    Nov 19, 2017 at 16:49
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    I've spent some time in Paris and Montréal recently and found that in the "moving past someone in a crowd" or "accidentally bumped someone" situations that I heard pardon much more frequently in Paris and excusez-moi much more in Montréal. That's my only observation here!
    – Hunter
    Nov 19, 2017 at 18:37
  • @Hunter Thats interesting. I was thinking that my inclination to say excusez-moi was due to my natural english language coming through Nov 19, 2017 at 19:09
  • @Hunter Yes, and the obvious reason for that is that Excusez-moi is a direct translation of excuse me. Anyway, désolée is means sorry, And is used like sorry would be used in English. [please use caps for names of languages in English. Thanks.]
    – Lambie
    Nov 19, 2021 at 17:05

2 Answers 2

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As a French, I would say "pardon" as a quick form of apology rather than the other forms. It plays me trick when I speak in English when I would naturally say "pardon" rather than "excuse me".

"Désolé" works as a sincere apology in the complete form: "Je suis désolé", else it is slightly less formal than "Pardon".

As for "Excusez-moi" it is probably ok in Canada . But in France-French I perceive it as less formal than "pardon". The correct form is "Veuillez m'excuser" which you can use as a formal way to barge in front of people or prepare for a request.

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    Excusez-moi is rude?? Maybe are you thinking about the controversial je m'excuse?
    – jlliagre
    Nov 20, 2017 at 18:20
  • I said "I perceive", but you are right it is not rude. I will update my answe. Nov 20, 2017 at 19:14
  • @jlliagre do you agree that veuillez m'excuser is preferred over excusez-moi ? Nov 21, 2017 at 5:44
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    @Aerovistae That depends. Veuillez m'excuser is more formal (but less than je vous prie de bien vouloir accepter mes excuses), is rare in spoken French, is more likely to introduce a clause (e.g. Veuillez m'excuser de vous répondre avec avec retard) while excusez-moi is common in spoken French where it is more likely to be a standalone request. Coluche wrote the now famous excusez-moi de vous demander pardon. ;-)
    – jlliagre
    Nov 21, 2017 at 8:49
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    I am agree with @A.P. . "Excusez moi" is "rude" because it's an "impératif". We use the tense "Impératif" for order usually.
    – Cocorico
    Nov 21, 2017 at 16:20
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There is a big difference between the two :

— « Désolé » simply expresses your personal feeling about something. You feel bad that something happened to someone.

— « Je m'excuse » means that you accept responsibility for the error or the situation for which you express your regrets, the fault lies with you.

Dire désolé exprime simplement vos sentiments personnels à propos de quelque chose.
S'excuser implique que vous acceptez la responsabilité de la faute ou de l'erreur et que vous exprimez vos regrets à ce sujet.

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    No one is saying that désolée is sorry. Je suis désolé, I'm sorry. Je m'excuse can also be I apologize.
    – Lambie
    Nov 19, 2021 at 18:02

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