5 Ways to Express Embarrassment in Spanish


Spanish learners are constantly growing their vocabulary in order to have more capable and fluent conversations. In some cases, these conversations may require you to be able to describe your feelings and emotions. Among the wide range of emotions, you may wonder how to say embarrassed in Spanish. 

There are different expressions that speakers use to say embarrassed in Spanish. Some of the most common include:

Being able to say that you feel embarrassed about something in Spanish will allow you to communicate your feelings better and avoid awkward situations. For that reason, I’ve compiled a list of 5 common expressions that you can use to say embarrassed in Spanish. 

Even though they all have similar meanings, some of these expressions are more suitable for informal instances while others are better for formal situations. So to help you choose the best option for you, I’ll include examples, phrase structures and short descriptions of when and how to use them. Additionally, I’ll show you different variations of each one of these expressions. 

By the end of this, you’ll know different expressions and words to say ‘embarrassed’ in Spanish. 

1. Tener pena – To feel embarrassed

Tener pena, or its variation tener vergüenza, are two popular expressions that people use in Spanish as a way to express their embarrassment for something that’s already happened or an activity that they need to perform. Both of these expressions can be translated as to feel embarrassed. 

‘Tener pena’ is slightly more casual than ‘tener vergüenza’. As a result, tener pena is more suitable for informal situations. However, there’s really not a big difference between them and choosing one or the other is more a personal choice. 

Even though it’s not a rule of thumb, both of these expressions are more common in Latin American Spanish speaking countries. Below there are some examples and phrase structure that you can use with this expression. 

Notice that you need to add a verb in the infinitive form to indicate the activity that makes you feel embarrassed. 

[Tener conjugated] + pena/vergüenza + de + [verb in infinitive]

Lisa, ¿tienes pena? ¡Tranquila!
Lisa, are you embarrassed? Take it easy! 

Abraham tiene pena de hablar con Emma
Abraham is embarrassed of talking to Emma

La neta, tengo pena de decirte lo que pienso
To be honest, I’m embarrassed of telling you what I think

Tim y Allie tienen vergüenza de hablar español en público
Tim and Allie are embarrassed of speaking Spanish in public

Take Note: In some contexts, tener vergüenza is also used to express disapproval for someone’s behaviour. In this situation, this expression is translated as ‘have (no) shame’ or ‘be shameless’. 

¿Otra vez llegaste tarde? ¡Ten poquita vergüenza!
Are you late again? Have a little bit of shame!

2. Estar avergonzado – To be embarrassed of…

Estar avergonzado is another structure that you could use to say ‘embarrassed’ in Spanish. As you may imagine, this expression can be translated as ‘to be embarrassed of…’ and it has a popular variation: sentirse avergonzado. 

Both of these expressions are very common in Spanish, but notice that, in the case of ‘sentirse avergonzado’, you need to follow a reflexive verb conjugation. Additionally, avergonzado can be replaced for one of the following adjectives:

  • Apenado – Embarrassed/Ashamed. More popular in Latin American Spanish. 
  • Abochornado –  Embarrassed/Ashamed. More popular in Castilian Spanish

Notice that these previous variations are adjectives. This means that you need to change them to match the gender of the person that feels embarrassed. Here are some examples:  

[Ver  conjugated] + [adjective] 

No te sientas apenada por lo que pasó
Don’t be embarrassed for what happened 

Matt se siente avergonzado por lo que te dijo
Matt is embarrassed for the things he said

Estoy muy apenado contigo, espero que podamos hablar pronto
I’m very embarrassed, I hope we can talk soon

Mis papás están abochornados porque su perro arruinó las plantas del vecino
My parents are ashamed because their dog ruined the neighbor’s plants

3. ¡Qué pena! – How embarrassing!

The Spanish expression ¡qué pena! is used to express that a certain event or action made you feel embarrassed. Usually, this phrase comes as a response to a particular situation. Due to its characteristics, ‘¡qué pena!’ is more suitable for conversational contexts. 

When it comes to variations, you can use the Mexican slang expression ¡qué oso! which is also used to say ‘how embarrassing!’. Here are some examples to show you how to use these expressions:

¿Llevas mucho esperando? ¡Discúlpame, qué pena!
Have you been waiting long? I’m so sorry, how embarrassing!

William se dio cuenta que lo estábamos viendo, ¡qué oso!
William noticed that we were watching him, how embarrassing!

Qué pena and qué oso can also be used to introduce the situation that made you embarrassed. The purpose of doing this is to intensify that shameful action. Yes, if it wasn’t bad enough that people already embarrassed themselves, you’re here to remind them, lol! 

[Expression] + que + [object pronoun] + [imperfect subjunctive]

¡No manches, qué pena que las viera!
Damn! How embarrassing that he saw you!

¡Qué oso que te quedaras dormido a media clase!
How embarrassing that you fell asleep in the middle of class!

Related Resource: Spanish Object Pronouns

4. Dar pena – It makes me embarrassed

For conversational contexts, dar pena is my favorite expression to say ‘embarrassed’ in Spanish. As you may imagine, you can also use the variation dar vergüenza. Both of these expressions can be translated as:

  • It makes me feel embarrassed / ashamed 
  • I feel embarrassed
  • It makes me feel shy

When it comes to expressing embarrassment in Spanish, there’s not a big difference between ‘dar pena’ and ‘dar vergüenza’. Sometimes I may use one more than the other, but it’s just a personal preference. 

Here are some examples and expressions that you can use for these expressions. Notice that the second verb indicates the action that makes you feel embarrassed. So if this information is clear enough, you can omit this second verb. 

[Indirect object pronoun] + [dar conjugated] + pena/vergüenza + [infinitive verb]

A Pilar le da pena hablar con otras personas
Pilar feels embarrassed of talking to other people

¿Qué pasó? ¿ Te dió pena invitar a Kate?
What happened? Were you embarrassed to invite Kate?

¡Ve tú! A nosotras nos da pena cantar en público
You go! Singing in public makes us feel shy

Si quieren yo le digo, a mí no me da pena
If you want, I can tell him, it doesn’t make me feel embarrassed

Take Note: In some situations, dar pena can also be used to express pity or sorrow for a certain event. In this case, dar pena can be translated as ‘feel sorry’ or ‘feel sad’. These contexts are very easy to identify, so don’t worry too much about it. 

Me da pena ver a tu mamá tan triste
I feel sorry seeing your mom so sad

5. Avergonzar – To embarrass/To be ashamed

Since it’s the direct translation of ‘to embarrass’ or ‘to be ashamed’, avergonzar is a popular verb that people use in Spanish to express that a person or an action embarrasses them. Given that it’s standard vocabulary, avergonzar is slightly more formal than the previous expressions from this list. 

Notice that you may need to use different structures depending on what embarrasses you. Here is a structure that you can use to express that an action or situation embarrasses you.  

[Indirect object pronoun] + [avergonzar conjugated] + [activity]

Me avergüenza hablar en público
Talking in public embarrasses me

A Tania le avergüenza bailar enfrente de sus amigas
Tania is ashamed to dance in front of her friends

If on the other hand, you want to express that a person is embarrassing you, you can use the following structure. If the context is clear, you don’t need to mention the person that is making you feel embarrassed. 

[Indirect object pronoun] + [avergonzar conjugated] + a + (person)

¡Ya cállate! ¡Me estás avergonzando!
Shut up! You’re embarrassing me!

Laura avergonzó a su novio en la fiesta de Sammy
Laura embarrassed her boyfriend at Sammy’s party

Notice that you can conjugate avergonzar in the Spanish present proggresive tense to express that the action (your feelings, such as being embarrassed) are taking place as you speak. 

Wrapping Up

If you’re learning Spanish, you need to be able to express yourself and let people know what your feelings about a particular situation are. For that reason, in this article, we’ve learned 5 different ways to say embarrassed in Spanish. 

In addition to these 5 expressions, I also included some common variations so you can improve your vocabulary and examples that you use as guidance. Remember that some of these expressions might not be suitable for formal situations. So make sure you choose the best option. 

All of these phrases are very common ways to say embarrassed in Spanish, so don’t be afraid to use them! 

Related Resources

Different words to say angry in Spanish
Different ways to say ‘I don’t know’ in Spanish

Daniela Sanchez

¡Hola! Soy Daniela Sanchez, I’ve taught Spanish in Mexico to a wide array of foreigners. From students and tourists to doctors and soldiers who’ve moved and visited here over the years. During the day I’m a freelancer and marketer, while at night I’m here writing for students of the world wide web looking to learn Spanish. I hope you find what you’re looking here during your journey into Español 🙂 Read More About Me

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