Do you know three different meanings of「すみません」?

When foreigners visit Japan, they notice Japanese always apologizing because they often say 「すみません(I’m sorry)」 in any situation. However, did you know 「すみません」have other meanings as well? Let’s find what they are!


I’m sorry

The first one is as we said, it means “I’m sorry”. For example, if you bump into someone on a street, you say「すみません」, which means “I’m sorry (for bumping into you)”.


Thank you

The second meaning is, surprisingly, “thank you”. For example, when you get a birthday present or souvenir from you friends, or when they help you for something, you say 「すみません」, which means “thank you”. You can also just say 「ありがとう(thank you)」in this situation.


Excuse me

The third meaning is “Excuse me”. This includes both meanings of ①"I’m sorry" and ②"thank you" because if you ask someone about something, you feel bad to take their time while you also thank them for taking their time. For example, when you want to ask something to your boss who seems to be working at the moment, you can say 「すみません, do you have time now?, then it means “Excuse me”. 

Also, we often say 「すみません」as "excuse me" to call your waiters at a restaurant.


Now you know Japanese people is not always apologizing just because they say 「すみません」! Let’s remember its meanings and use it properly!