Sumimasen // Meaning in Japanese: excuse me or sorry?


I was going through the following article about basic phrases in Japanese:

When I noticed the following two phrases:

  • Sumimasen すみません – Excuse me
  • Gomennasai ごめんなさい – Sorry

I had read before that sumimasen can mean both sorry and excuse me. So my question is: do people use gomennasai for a more serious apology, whereas sumimasen would be a light apology, e.g. if you bump into someone in public? Or is sumimasen only used as excuse me, e.g. if asking someone for directions?

Arigatou in advance!


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I use sumimasen like “excuse me”, like for slight inconvenience or for attention or before ask for a favor, e.g. bump to someone on the street. Gomenasai is for when i made a mistake. You can even short it to “gomen” if you talk to your friends.

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Or you can joke “sorrymasen”. Call it Englese or Japanglish :rofl: :rofl:


This is very good! I will use this Holly :sweat_smile:

Arigathanks Max www (it’s the Japanese version of LOL btw)

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hahah I love this, I might just start saying it to people I speak English with