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?

  • 2
    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
    Commented Nov 19, 2017 at 16:49
  • 3
    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
    Commented 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 Commented 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
    Commented Nov 19, 2021 at 17:05

4 Answers 4


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.

  • 1
    Excusez-moi is rude?? Maybe are you thinking about the controversial je m'excuse?
    – jlliagre
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 18:20
  • I said "I perceive", but you are right it is not rude. I will update my answe. Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 19:14
  • @jlliagre do you agree that veuillez m'excuser is preferred over excusez-moi ? Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 5:44
  • 1
    @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
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 8:49
  • 2
    I am agree with @A.P. . "Excusez moi" is "rude" because it's an "impératif". We use the tense "Impératif" for order usually.
    – Cocorico
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 16:20

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.

  • 2
    No one is saying that désolée is sorry. Je suis désolé, I'm sorry. Je m'excuse can also be I apologize.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 19, 2021 at 18:02

"Je m'excuse" is more about acknowledging your own apology, rather than directly asking the offended person for forgiveness. It's a bit like saying "I excuse myself" in English, which focuses more on your own actions than on seeking forgiveness from the other person.

  • OP asks about “Excusez-moi”, not “Je m'excuse”.
    – Toto
    Commented Apr 13 at 19:06
  • This doesn't answer the question. It could be a comment, which you will be able to do once you have enough reputation.
    – None
    Commented Apr 14 at 12:41

Oui, votre compréhension est en grande partie correcte, et elle reflète bien les nuances d'usage de ces expressions en français.

Pardon : C'est souvent utilisé pour s'excuser de manière brève et polie après une petite gêne, comme bousculer quelqu'un accidentellement. C'est probablement l'expression la plus fréquemment utilisée dans les interactions rapides et informelles.

Excusez-moi : Cette formule est effectivement souvent employée pour attirer l'attention de quelqu'un avant de poser une question, ou pour s'excuser d'une manière un peu plus formelle. Par exemple, on pourrait dire « excusez-moi, pourriez-vous me dire où se trouve la station de métro ? »

Désolé : Utilisé pour exprimer un regret plus personnel et souvent plus profond. Si on a causé un désagrément plus significatif à quelqu'un, on pourrait utiliser « désolé » pour montrer sincèrement qu'on regrette l'incident.

Chacune de ces expressions a sa place selon le contexte et le degré de formalité de la situation. En France, les nuances peuvent varier légèrement selon les régions et les préférences personnelles, mais globalement, ce que vous avez appris est juste.

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