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Why is なさい used in ごめんなさい when it is usually used as a command form?

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    It's ごめんなさい (go-men + nasai), so you're missing an n.
    – user1478
    Jun 20, 2017 at 15:11

2 Answers 2

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免 is a somewhat old word meaning 'forgiveness'. There is a polite command form that goes お・ご~なさい, such as in おいでなさい or ご覧なさい. If you apply this to 免, you get ご免なさい, literally 'please forgive me'. This command form is also seen in おやすみなさい and おかえりなさい.

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Nothing at all's answer is fine the basics, but it could be misleading depending on how much Japanese you are planning to learn.

ご/おV-stemなさい is a polite command conjugation of the verb なさる.

なさる is the keigo equivalent of する (meaning it is respectful). Conversely, いたす is the self-humbling form.

So by using なさる you express respect for the person you are talking to and by using ご/おV-stemください you express it politely.

免ずる means to forgive and this is then conjugated to mean "please forgive me" by using a polite and respectful command conjugation.

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