Kaho’s Japanese Corner: Sumimasen and Gomennasai

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Back in 2008 we had a regular contributor, Kaho, whose first language was Japanese.  She wrote many posts with helpful information about commonly used and needed Japanese expressions, often added to the ends of her posts about shoppingWe’re turning her “Japanese Corner” tidbits into posts of their own so that you can hopefully feel more comfortable beginning to use what is likely still a foreign language for many of you. 

ORIGINALLY CONTRIBUTED BY KAHO in February 2008

Kaho’s Japanese Corner: Sumimasen and Gomennasai

One of the words you probably hear the most from Japanese people is “sumimasen“.  When I lived abroad, I was once asked why Japanese people use “I’m sorry” so often.  Sumimasen is not the same as gomennasai Sumimasen can be used in two ways.

One usage is “excuse me” and the other is “I’m sorry”.  Sumimasen is a convenient word to know.  If you want attention from a waiter, you can say “Sumimasen!”  If you find no one at a cashier and you need to check out items, “Sumimasen!!!”.  If you want to stop someone and ask directions, “sumimasen…”.  I’m late to post an article, “ah, sumimasen.”

If you bump into someone, “Sumimasen!” and bow a little.  In this case, sumimasen could also mean to be sorry, so you can use “gomennasai“.  Gomennasai is used when you apologize for something bad you have done.   My guess is that Japanese people use “I’m sorry” as sumimasen for “excuse me”.

Got it?  What?  You already know?  If you’re a “sumimasen” virgin, try and use sumimasen around town.  Not so hard, right?

Want to read more of these helpful Japanese language posts?  Check them all out HERE.

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