There are two verbs commonly used in Russian, which carry similar meaning, but at the same time they differ in senses essentially. Let's inquire them through the the following examples:
1. The verb ''ИЗВИНИТЬ'' /to excuse/.
It is used in speech, when an apology is of formal kind, and you don't know a person or someone is little-known to you. Different variations of the present word can be heard in public places – you stepped on someone's foot accidentally, hurtled a bypasser etc.
People don't import emotional connotation into it, say it unwittingly, automatically, more like paying a tribute to courtesy - ''Извините, пожалуйста!'' /Excuse me, please/. More official variant of this expression is ''Приношу свои извинения!'' /You have my excuses!/, acceptable in business circles and formal setting.
2. The verb ''ПРОСТИТЬ'' /to forgive/.
You ask for forgiveness your loved ones and friends for actions, of which you are honest in repentance. For instance: you forgot to call, you offended someone, you were late for meeting or didn't even come etc. By saying, ''Прости(те) меня, пожалуйста!'' /Forgive me, please!/, you let a person know that you acknowledge your mistakes and are ready to continue ties. And what is the most important, you won't make a person get upset because of you over again. «Прошу прощения!» /I ask for forgiveness/ is less emotional form of the mentioned above expression. It is used when it is hard for a person to appoligize in principle, one doesn't know how to do it.
IT IS IMPORTANT! How will you address a Russian bypasser, if you don't know the way? We do not excuse, do not ask to forgive us (you haven't commited anything!). We just greet and ask to point towards needed way:
- Здравствуйте ( or Добрый день! )! Скажите, пожалуйста, как пройти до улицы проспект Мира? /Hello (or Good afternoon!)! Tell me, please, how can I get to Mira Avenue?/