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In all the anime and j-drama I have watched all these years, as far as I can remember, the only scenario where the greeting 「ごめんください」 is used is when the characters are in front of an ajar or open door of a house calling the residents out, like 「ごめんください! だれかいませんか?」. I also remember some scenes where this greeting was used in phone calls, although I can't recall whether it was in the beginning or before the end of the conversations.

Apart from the two scenarios above, are there any other scenarios where 「ごめんください」 is used? If not, what makes this greeting so restricted in usage?

N.B. Somewhat related: Usage of すみません (sumimasen) versus ごめんなさい (gomen'nasai)

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I've only ever heard it when you're trying to get someone's attention, like you described them standing in front of a house door and trying to determine if anyone's home. (But I'm not a very authoritative source!) –  William Jul 20 '11 at 13:41
    
The reason why it is restricted is because it is an idiomatic expression. In contexts other than as an idiom, ごめん(を)ください is not grammatical. –  user458 Jul 20 '11 at 16:27
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@sawa That doesn't mean a thing. I'm not asking about using it in a normal sentence. I'm asking whether it's also used in any other scenario where you offer apology or excuse yourself, for example, when you sneeze or burp. –  Lukman Jul 20 '11 at 16:35
    
That is because the idiomatic ごめんください does not mean appology. Simple. –  user458 Jul 20 '11 at 16:37
    
@sawa Sorry for not being knowledgable enough to know that it's not an apology. But that's exactly why I asked. Would you mind posting it as an answer? Or simply -1 me if you think this question is stupid. Thanks –  Lukman Jul 20 '11 at 16:43

2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

ごめんください is an idiomatic expression used to attract someone's attention when visitng that person's place. It does not mean 'appology' + 'please give' any more. Pretty much similar to your example but another variant is when you want something at a shop, and you don't see a shop clerk around, you can use this word to call someone. If the person you want to call is already in front of you, you cannot use this.

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Can it be used in phone calls? I'm not sure if one would ever need to get the attention of the other side when it's obvious the attention is already given the moment the call is picked up. –  Lukman Jul 20 '11 at 17:06
    
@Lukman It would be strange on the phone exactly for the reason you give. The example with the phone you mention in the question is a bit mysterious to me. If you can recall the context and add it to the question, there may (or may not) be something I might be able to say about it. –  user458 Jul 20 '11 at 17:11
    
For a phone call, use もしもし instead. –  William Jul 20 '11 at 17:40

sawa already gave a good explanation of the idiom ごめんください, but I will add another usage: it is also used at the end of conversation when the speaker leaves. In this meaning, it is also used over the phone, whereas I do not think that anyone says ごめんください at the beginning of a phone call. Using ごめんください when the speaker leaves (over the phone or not) sounds old-fashioned to me.

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