When pronouncing "sumimasen" (すみません), sometimes native speakers will elide the "-n"(ん) and elongate it, sort of like "sumimaseee~". This is the same and not a conjugation I would assume?

Might anyone know please if there implications or nuances in this? Is it just like in English one might say "sorryyyy" (a bit more informal and slightly stressing the recalcitrance, deferring to body language)? Is it just an accent/dialect in certain cities? Is it more effeminate? Does this pronunciation make it less formal or polite? ... or is it just typical variation you might see between how different individual people may say things?

Thank you.

2 Answers 2


I think ん is still there at the end of the phrase, but it's true that せ is often elongated. People do this for several reasons:

  • Simply to emphasize the phrase ("I'm soooo sorry!").
  • To make someone hear the phrase ("Hellooooo? Is anyone there?")
  • To indicate the speaker is not very serious ("Tch, sorryyyy...") (often with slangy contractions like すんません or サーセン)

It depends on the tone and the context. I don't think dialects are relevant. Either way, this elongation is not standard, and it makes the apology sound more colloquial. In a serious apology in formal settings, you must not elongate せ.


For the reason why it sounds like the "-n"(ん) is elided, it is because the actual sound that ん makes in Japanese can greatly vary, one of which (known as nasal vowels) is notorious for being quite difficult for some non-native speakers to perceive.

In the word-final position like すみません, two types of sounds are observed:

後続音のない「ん」の場合、口蓋垂鼻音 [ɴ] または先行音と同じ調音位置の鼻母音で発音される。 https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/ん

That is, せん part can be pronounced as either [se̞ɴ], with a nasal consonant [ɴ] marking the ん (easy for many non-native speakers to perceive), or as [se̞ẽ̞], with a nasal vowel [ẽ̞] markng the ん (quite tricky for some non-native speakers to catch).

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