Difference between “sumimasen” and “gomen nasai”? + Michel Thomas

Q: Hi Richard
Firstly I would like to thank you so much for all the
great resources on your site – they have been a great help to me in my quest to learn Japanese.  I have finished a Level 1 course at a language college but now as I am unable to afford any further lessons I am learning on my own using the Michel Thomas method you recommended on your site but I miss having a tutor to query things with so I hope that you could answer some queries for me.

1. I was taught at the college that the negative of desu was dewa arimasen but on my Michel Thomas course they use ja arimasen – Which one is the right one to use please?

A:  You can use either, they’re pretty much the same, both are cool.

2. Also I have been watching a great Japanese drama (1 litre of tears) and this has been great in showing me the use of the language in everyday life but has confused me as to which sorry to use – sumimasen or gomenasai?  The girl seemed to use gomen alot whereas the mother used sumimasen but not always so please can you clarify the right use?

A: すみません (sumimasen) is more of an “excuse me” way of saying “sorry”, f or example getting a waiter’s attention in a restaurant.

ごめんなさい (gomen nasai) you’d usually only use if you’ve actually done something wrong, you’re sort of apologising and asking for forgiveness!  Just like in English, taking responsibility and apologising show strong character so are usually good things to do if you have done something a bit bad!

Thank you so much for your time and again for your great site. Liz -^^-

No problem!

Be genki,


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