5 ways to say “excuse me” in Italian and be a polite bilingual

When you travel abroad, you quickly learn the importance of many skills we often take for granted.

Like the ability to ask for permission, or to tell a person you didn’t understand what they said, or even to apologize politely if you bump into someone.

In English, we have one expression for all of these things: “excuse me“. But what happens if we try to say “excuse me” in Italian?

how to say excuse me in italian
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How to translate excuse me into Italian

As you may have guessed from the title of this post, there are 5 ways to translate “excuse me” into Italian.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to memorize them all.

As our readers know well, in this blog we believe that internalizing the logic behind the language is better than memorizing sterile lists of words.

However, it’s only fair to give you a comprehensive overview of all the possibilities. Let’s start with the formal ones.

1

Formal translations

Whether you like formalities or not, it’s important to know some basic courtesy words, especially when you’re trying to get a stranger’s attention. Here are the easiest ways to do it.

Mi scusi

Mi scusi is the literal translation of excuse me. It can be used in formal situations:

  • to get someone’s attention (i.e.: when you want to speak in a classroom, or when you’re asking for indications, or even to speak to the staff in shops);
  • to apologize for a minor fault, like stepping on someone accidentally.

Mi scusi, potrei sapere quanto costano le mele?

Excuse me, may I know how much do these apples cost?

Chiedo scusa

Chiedo scusa means “I ask (you to) excuse (me)”, and can be used interchangeably with mi scusi. Aside from that, you can also use it to ask for permission or to tell other people that you didn’t understand what they said.

Chiedo scusa, potrei usare il bagno?

Excuse me, can I use the toilet?

Chiedo scusa, non ho capito bene. Può ripetere?

I beg your pardon, I didn’t understand well. Can you repeat that?

You can even use it sarcastically to reply when someone tells you something offensive.

Chiedo scusa?! Come si permette di parlarmi così?!

Excuse me?! How dare you talk to me that way?!

Mi perdoni / Le chiedo perdono

Mi perdoni is the Italian equivalent of “pardon me. Like mi scusi, it can be used to request attention, but most of the time it just reinforces one of the other expressions you just learned.

Chiedo scusa? Mi perdoni, saprebbe dirmi come arrivare in Via Roma?

Excuse me? Pardon me, can you tell me how to get to Via Roma?

informal translations

Informal translations

And now, let’s see some translations of “excuse me” that you can use or hear in informal contexts.

Scusa / Scusami

Scusa is the informal equivalent of mi scusi. If you want to sound slightly more polite, you can add the reflexive pronoun -mi (“me“) and turn it into scusami.

Scusami Mario, posso usare il tuo telefono?

Excuse me Mario, can I use your phone?

Permesso

Finally, when you’re moving through a crowd or going past someone there’s a special expression that Italians use to ask for permission and apologize at the same time: permesso.

Permesso, permesso… devo passare, sto perdendo il treno!

Excuse me, excuse me… I’ve got to go past you, I’m losing my train!

Italians also use it when they’re entering someone else’s home. In this case, it means: “may I come in?

Permesso? Wow, che bella casa!

May I come in? Wow, what a beautiful home!

the difference between scusa and scusi

What’s the difference between Scusi and Scusa?

Many beginners make confusion between scusi/mi scusi and scusa. And to be fair, I can’t blame them.

Many A1 learners usually regard them as present tenses of the Italian verb scusare (“to excuse“):

  • Io scuso
  • Tu scusi
  • Lui/Lei scusa
  • Noi scusiamo
  • Voi scusate
  • Essi scusano

So why should we use a 3rd person present tense when asking for permission?

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The thing is: when we use these words to say “excuse me” in Italian, we are not using them as present tenses. Think about it.

Excuse me” is imperative. And the imperative of scusare is scusa (or scusami, if you want to add a reflexive pronoun).

However, it is not very polite to address someone you’re not acquainted with using a direct imperative mood.

For those occasions, Italians borrow from their subjunctive mood to create what they call an “indirect imperative“.

And guess what: the indirect imperative of scusare is (surprise!) scusi. Once again, you can add a reflexive pronoun to gain formality points, and in this case, it becomes mi scusi.

And now excuse me, but that’s the end of this post

These are all the ways to say “excuse me” that Italians use in real-life situations.

Keep reading this blog to learn new Italian words every week. And if you want to make some practice in the meantime, take our free online Italian test, and let us know how it went in the comments.

Ci vediamo!

Still translating in your head? Wanna speak Italian for real? Check out Stefano's courses to think directly in Italian and become fluent fast!

FAQs on 5 ways to say “excuse me” in Italian and be a polite bilingual

Do Italians say Scusi?

If you want to say excuse me in Italian as you're attempting to push through a crowd, “scusi” isn't the word Italians usually use. The correct word, is "permesso." It derives from the verb "permettere," which means to allow.

How do you say excuse me in Rome?

A frequently used expression to say excuse me in Italian is "mi scusi."

Is Scusi formal or informal?

“Mi scusi” means “excuse me” in Italian, so it's formal. It can be used to express politeness, apologize to a stranger, and ask for directions. Its formal form is "scusa."

How do you use Scusate?

If you want to say excuse me in Italian and you're speaking to a group of people, you should use the “plural” you: Scusate.

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