In this article, we are going to answer the difference between Sumimasen and Gomennasai, and when to use it.
Both words Sumimasen (すみません) and Gomennasai (ごめんなさい) can mean: excuse me, pardon me, I’m sorry, I beg your pardon. But there are some differences between them.
In a low level, sumimasen is used to say sorry for something you have the “right” to do, when you pass through a crowd or when you have the attention of a waiter in a restaurant for example. Gomennasai is used when you do something wrong.
So, while walking through a crowd, you can say sumimasen (excuse me), but if you step in someone foot, you say gomennasai (sorry).
Sumimasen in Japanese
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Sumimasen is like to say “excuse me”, a light apology, when you ask questions to someone on the street or when you are trying to do anything that can bother other people.
Sumimasen is a little more formal than gomennasai, because of it be more sincere. When you say apologies to an elderly, is common say sumimasen. Old people usually use sumimasen more than the young. “Gomennasai” as well “sumimasen” is used when you do something wrong or bother someone. Sumimasen is else used to express gratitude.
When you say sorry to someone in a higher level than you, like your boss, is better use sumimasen, because gomennasai can look infantile.
There are informal versions from the word sumimasen: すまん (suman) or すまない (sumanai), it has the same meaning, although with a degree of casualness.
Sumimasen can mean “thank you” too, as arigatou. You can use it in the place of arigatou when someone does something to you, thus you are saying sorry for the bother and thank the person.
Gomennasai in Japanese
Gomennasai is the true way to say sorry when you really did something wrong. It is common between children and young, and between friends and family. It can not be used to express gratitude.
There are informal ways, like ごめんね (gomenne – casual) or ごめん (gomen – more casual). These versions are common between friends and family.
申し訳ありません (Mōshiwakearimasen) or 申し訳ございません (Mōshiwakegozaimasen) is a version more formal than gomennasai, used when we do something really bad, unforgivable, on occasions of great importance, or when we are saying sorry on behalf of several persons or an organization. This apology usually is accompanied by a bow.
I hope you had taken your doubts about these two words.