Gomenasai vs Sumimasen vs Suimasen: Sorry in Japanese

“Gomenasai (ごめんなさい)” and “Sumimasen (すみません)” both mean “I am sorry”, and in everyday conversation, Japanese people often use “Suimasen (すいません)”, which also means “I am sorry”. 

Gomenasai vs Sumimasen vs Suimasen 

Gomenasai or Sumimasen or Suimasen or Moushiwake Gozaimasen 

These Japanese phrases all have a meaning of “sorry”, but how do they differ in usage and nuance? 

Gomenasai (ごめんなさい)

The polite word for “Gomen (ごめん)“, “Gomenasai (ごめんなさい)” (Pronunciation) is used when the speaker wants to express a sincere apology and beg forgiveness.

This phrase is often used by children to parents.

Sumimasen (すみません)

Meanwhile, the polite word for “Sumanai (すまない)”, “Sumimasen (すみません)” (Pronunciation) is used when the speaker is feeling anxious or guilty about something.

This phrase tends to be often used to strangers, close bosses and superiors, and close customers.

Suimasen (すいません)

And the last, “Suimasen (すいません)” (Pronunciation) is the colloquial, informal way to say Sumimasen. 

From my personal point of view, to strangers, and close bosses and superiors, this phrase is spoken as frequently as Sumimasen.

But using this word to customers can be rude in many cases.

Moushiwake Gozaimasen (申し訳ございません)

Gomenasai, Sumimasen, and Suimasen are all casual expressions to say “I’m sorry” in Japanese.

In formal scenes, you should say “Moushiwake Gozaimasen (申し訳ございません)” (Pronunciation).

(Reference Pages: Excite News, Mynavi News )



Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. For the purpose of enriching your life, I would like to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures, and facts and trivia.

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