What is the difference between Sumimasen and Gomennasai?

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A while ago we answered the difference between onegai and kudasai. In this article we will answer what is the difference between sumimasen and gomennasai and when to use each of these words.

Both words sumimasen (すみません) and gomennasai  (ごめんなさい) can mean: I'm sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry. however, there are some differences between the two words.

At a basic level, sumimasen It's apologize for something you have the “right” to do, like, when passing through a crowd or getting the attention of a waiter in a restaurant. The gomennasai is used when you do something inappropriate.

So, when walking in a crowd, you can speak sumimasen (excuse me), but if you step on someone's feet you say gomennasai (excuse).

Qual a diferença entre sumimasen e gomennasai?

What does Sumimasen mean?

Sumimasen it's like saying "excuse me," or a light apology, or when you ask a question of someone on the street, while trying to do anything that might be a nuisance to another person.

sumimasen it is a little more formal than gomennasai, because it is a more sincere way. When you apologize to an Elderly, it is common to say sumimasen. Older people tend to use sumimasen more than young people. Both “gomennasai” and “sumimasen” are used when you make mistakes or upset someone. “Sumimasen” is also used to express gratitude.

When you apologize to someone of a higher level than you, such as your boss, it is best to use the sumimasen, because the gomennasai can seem more childish.

There are informal versions of the words sumimasen that are: ん (suman) or い (sumanai), its use has the same meaning, but with a degree of chance. 

Sumimasen it can also mean "Thank you" as well as arigatou. You can use it in place of arigatou when someone does something for you, so you're apologizing for the inconvenience and thanking you.

Qual a diferença entre sumimasen e gomennasai?

What does Gomennasai mean?

O gomennasai it's a real apology, when you really do something wrong. But it is common among young people and children, and among friends and family. It cannot be used to express gratitude.

There are informal versions of the word like  (gomenne - occasional) or (gomen - more casual). It is very common to use these versions among 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 more formal version of gomennasai, used when we make a very serious, unforgivable mistake, on occasions of paramount importance, or when we are apologizing on behalf of or various people. This apology is usually made with a reverence.

I hope this article has cleared your doubts regarding these 2 similar words.