As usual we’ve just hit the basics here. There are actually a lot of other subtle differences between “sumimasen” and “gomennasai” that you’ll start to notice the more you study. You will also probably run into their super casual forms: “suman” and “gomen”.
And run into them you will! Thanks to Japanese politeness today’s vocabulary should be pretty easy to find in your favorite Japanese media.
すみません = excuse me / I’m sorry
ごめんあさい = I’m sorry
Social Escape Routes
Blue: すみません means “excuse me”.
Blue: It’s useful for getting the attention of a stranger or when you bump into someone in a crowd.
Blue: すみません can also be used to mean “I’m sorry”.
Blue: If you want an extra polite “I’m Sorry” you can use すみませんでした.
Blue: ごめんなさい also means “I’m sorry” and is usually used to apologize for doing something wrong.
Blue: You could use すみません when asking to borrow someone’s phone, but if you lost their phone you would use ごめんなさい.
Blue: Memorizing these phrases is very important.
Yellow: Because we foreigners make lots of mistakes?
Blue: Well… yes. But also because you’re just you.