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 appropriate when the speaker wants to express a sincere apology and beg forgiveness.

Japanese children often use this phrase toward 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 appropriate when the speaker is feeling anxious or guilty about something.

We often use this phrase with strangers, close bosses/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 point of view, towards strangers and close bosses/superiors, this phrase is spoken as frequently as Sumimasen.

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

Moushiwake Gozaimasen (申し訳ございません)

Gomenasai, Sumimasen, and Suimasen are all informal 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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