Greetings and Apologies

To help students understand the differences in English between "I'm sorry", "Excuse me" and "Thank you" and when to use various greetings during the day.

1.) Pass out worksheet.

2.) Go over the meanings of I’m sorry, excuse me and thank you in Japanese.  If you don’t know these yourself, make sure your OTE  confirms.  There should be a few for each phrase that may or may translate differently in different cases:

I’m sorry: すみません sumimasen, ごめん (なさい) gomen (nasai), 申し訳ありません/申し訳ない moushiwake arimasen/moushiwake nai

Excuse me/pardon me: すみません sumimasen, 何と言いましたか nan to iimashitaka, ごめん (なさい) gomen (nasai)

Thank you: ありがとう (ございます) arigatou (gozaimasu), すみません sumimasen

Make sure you say all of these, because the key of the activity is there are so many meanings for each that students must learn the correct context for each.

3.) Act out each scenario.  You can do it with the OTE, or picking on hapless students to be your partner usually elicits giggles.

#1 – bumping into someone

#2 – Helping someone who has dropped paper

#3 – being late (this is difficult to act out – might want to try writing “late” on the board and seeing if any students in juku know the meaning)

#4 – receiving a present

#5 – doing group work; someone helps you

#6 – trying to get between people in a crowded space

#7 – trying to get someone’s attention (tapping them on the shoulder)

4) Students choose their answers alone or in pairs.  Advise them that some scenarios have more than one answer.

5) Go over answers.

6) Flip over the paper—this time, students choose the greeting for the time of day.  Again, advise that there can be more than one answer.

7) Review answers.  Probably only a few students knew that ‘hello’ could be used at any time of day.


You need to act out most of the scenarios on the sheet otherwise the kids won't understand them.

This lesson inspired by my students' continual mixing up of "I'm sorry", "Excuse me" and "Thank you".

Also by the common scenario of one student saying "hello" to me in the morning and others jumping on him/her saying that the correct phrase is "good morning".  This isn't happening anymore so I think the activity helped!

Junior High