Ohanasi Kagawa

Useful Japanese for Beginners【すみませんSumimasen】

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In a previous column, I introduced “Daijyoubu” as a useful Japanese word that can be used by beginners.

Today, I would like to recommend “Sumimasen” as the second useful Japanese word!

“Suminasen” has several meanings depending on how you use it.

  • When you apologize
  • When you call out to someone
  • When you show your appreciation

At first, it may seem complicated, but if you know the situations in which it is used, it is not difficult to use it in conversation.

“Sumimasen” is a common word used in everyday life.

Once you understand how to use it, even beginners in Japanese will be able to communicate effectively.

Here are some easy explanations of how to use “すみません sumimasen” in many different situations.

“すみません Sumimasen” used when apologizing

The word “sumimasen” is used to apologize.

This is the same meaning as “gomennasai.”

It is a slightly more polite way of apologizing to someone you don’t know or to someone you are not very close to.

  • When you bump into someone:


” Sumimasen”

  • When you are late for an appointment:


“Sumimasen. I’m late.”

  • When you break something:


“Sumimasen. I broke a glass.”


When apologizing after a fight with a friend, you do not use “すみません sumimasen.”

In this case, it is “ごめんなさい Gomennasai.”

“すみません Sumimasan” used when calling out to someone.

We use “sumimasen” as a word to call out to people.

  • When there are people around the train door and you can’t get through:


“Sumimasen. I’m getting off.”

  • When you want to call an waiter at a restraunt:


“Sumimasen. Please take an order.”

  • When you want to ask a question:


“Sumimasan. Where is Shibuya Station.”

The word “sumimasen” is very common in everyday life.

In many cases, it is used to address strangers rather than close friends.

“すみません Sumimasen” used to express a gratitude

The word “sumimasen” is also used to express your gratitude.

It has the same meaning as “thank you,” but is often used when someone is kind to you.

  • When someone opened a door for you.
  • When someone offered you a seat on the train
  • When someone waited for you to get on the elevator.

The word “sumimasen” to express your thanks can also be replaced by the polite “Arigato gozaimasu.”

Once you understand the three meanings of “sumimasen” and learn how to use it, you will enjoy Japanese conversation even more.

Trying using “suminasen” and speak up at Ohanashi Kagawa!