Today we’re going to go over a couple of phrases that you can use to ask for forgiveness. There are two primary words to learn, and then you’ll know how to say “please forgive” me in Japanese.
In addition to that, I’ll give a couple of common responses so that you know when the other person has gotten over it and forgives whatever problem or mistake there was.
Using yurusu To Ask
The first word that I wanted to cover is ゆるす (yurusu) which actually has quite a few potential meanings, but the main ones we want to focus on in this article are “to forgive; to pardon” and such.
This word is normally spelled in kanji as 許す for its various meanings, and because one of the more common meanings of it is “to permit” some people prefer to use one of the alternative spellings when specifically talking about forgiveness.
For that reason, we will use 赦す in this article since this word is specifically about forgiving someone. Just keep in mind that 許す is also considered correct, and you’ll sometimes see it used.
To ask for someone to forgive you, there are a couple of different forms you can use.
The first one is simply to change 赦す into the te-form which indicates a request in Japanese. That would change this word into 赦して (yurushite) for “forgive me” in Japanese.
Having said that, it’s a little on the casual side so if you are more serious about the situation, then you can explicitly add on the Japanese word for please that goes along with this word.
In this case it is ください (kudasai) and would change the phrase into 赦してください which is much more like saying “please forgive me” when speaking in Japanese.
Having said that, there is also another word that often gets added into phrases when the speaker is asking the listener to do something for them. That word is くれる (kureru) and when it gets added on as an auxiliary verb it brings the meaning of “to do for my sake.”
We can then take this phrase and make it 赦してくれる for “please forgive me (for my sake)” which acknowledges that the other person is doing you a favor in this situation.
Using kanben To Ask
People make a lot of mistakes. Sometimes you mess up and you tell the other person that you’re sorry in Japanese. After that, it’s common to follow up with a request for forgiveness.
We covered one such way before, but there is also another one that is common to hear. It’s centered around the word 勘弁 (kanben) which is a noun that means “pardon; forgiveness” but can become a verb when we add する (suru) to the end of it.
The main difference that I’ve been told by natives between this word and the first one is that 勘弁 is a more formal word.
So, it’s more common to use 許す or 赦す among your friends and family, but if you are asking your superior for their pardon, then it would be better to use 勘弁.
At any rate, we can follow the same basic patterns as before when using 勘弁 to ask for forgiveness.
- kanben shite kudasai.
- Please pardon (forgive) me.
Something that you might have noticed is that this word is pretty common in Japanese anime. A common way that a male character might ask a female for forgiveness is with 勘弁してくれよ when he has really messed up and wants to get back on good terms with her.
I Forgive You In Japanese
Once you’ve asked for forgiveness, it’s up to the other person to grant you it. There are a couple of ways that they can do so, and I figured it would be a good idea to go over them now.
The first and most common way would simply be to use one of these two verbs that we’ve covered, but change them into a form that indicates a giving of forgiveness, instead of a receiving.
For 赦す this could be by changing it into 赦します (yuru shimasu) for “I forgive you” in Japanese.
Another common way would be to use the auxiliary verb あげる (ageru) after the main verb which would let the other person know that you are giving to them.
- yuru shite ageru.
- I forgive you.
This can also be applied with our other word for 勘弁してあげます (kanben shite agemasu) to pardon the other person.
Don’t Worry About It
Perhaps those sound a little too formal, and if you’re with friends then that’s probably true. In those cases where a person might just be five minutes late to your lunch plans, you might want to say something more along the lines of “it fine.”
In that case, the phrase もういいよ (mou ii yo) might be a better one since it tells the other person that them being late is not really a big deal, and it lets them off the hook in a casual manner.
You could also tell them to now worry about it, and then you two could order your drinks and food.
- ki ni shinai de.
- Don’t worry about it.
In either case, these phrases are good ones to use when a friend tells you they are sorry and you want to let them know that you two are still cool.
It’s About Good Manners
Perhaps you don’t want to ask the other person for forgiveness because you feel like your actions are justified. It’s very possible that you’re right, and there was nothing you could do.
That being said, it’s important to take the other person’s feelings into consideration, especially in the Japanese culture.
One of the shared values in Japan is harmony, so letting other people know that you are aware of when you’ve caused them problems, and then asking them for forgiveness, is a good way to keep the relationship on good terms.
Of course, this isn’t a uniquely Japanese thing. Everyone likes being appreciated and respected which sometimes requires us to say we’re sorry and ask for forgiveness.
Further Resources for Learning Japanese: