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Just as saying a simple 'I'm sorry' will not work in every situation in English, there are many different ways to apologize in Japanese. There are more forms than are listed on this page; this is only an introduction.

sumimasen /

I'm sorry. (Excuse me.)
- Can be used to get someone's attention.

gomen nasai /

Forgive me. (The nasai form is polite.)
- Use for apologies or when declining something.
shitsurei shimasu Please excuse me. (Lit. I'm going to break form.)
- Use when entering a room during a meeting (for serving tea etc.) or when looking for something on someone's desk. (If you are intruding on someone's time/space it's good to say this.)
- Used by school children as they enter the teachers' room.
shitsurei shimashita

Please excuse me, I was rude. (Lit. I broke form.)
- Use when exiting a room.
- Used by school children as they exit the teachers' room.

moushiwake gozaimasen /
moushiwake arimasen
I have no excuse. (The gozaimasen form is more polite.)
ikenai koto o shimashita I've done something I shouldn't have.
watakushi ga warukatta I was wrong. (Lit. I was bad.)
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