I've had someone say "I'm sorry!" to me to express a gesture of sympathy/empathy, whereas my answer to that was "Don't apologise for things you cannot control..."

The only thing I can think of in English that comes even close to what I want to express is "my condolences" but in this case, no one died, so that's not a good fit neither...

So, a question to the experts: What would be a good idiom to use to tell someone that I empathise/sympathise with them, without saying "I'm sorry..."?

Note: This question is a bit similar to this one but that one doesn't really answer my question and Google didn't turn up anything useful either... :-(

  • 1
    Whenever anybody says it's not your fault to my I'm sorry I like to subtly remind them that the phrase isn't actually an apology; I don't have to be to blame to be sorry see here
    – Hashbrown
    Commented Sep 25, 2015 at 4:56

6 Answers 6


Consider I feel for you

To feel for someone: to feel the emotional pain that someone else is feeling; to empathize or sympathize with someone

I really feel for you. I'm so sorry it turned out this way.

Fred felt for Dave, but there was nothing he could do for him.

  • Good one! +1 already, but I'll wait 24h to see if someone else will come up with something even more brilliant! ;-)
    – Fabby
    Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 21:23

I commiserate with you.

It's just one possible solution.

I can't really take any credit for it though, as I found it here.

If that OP drops in and posts it as an answer, please delete this. Credit to them.


I [really] sympathize with you [for your pain/problems]

*Definition of "sympathize with someone (about someone or something)": to share someone else's sorrow or anger about someone or something; to comfort someone who is sad or angry (about someone or something).


I think the main word here is "share" and what follows, depends on context. You could share someone's feelings, frustration, pain or loss.

  • I share your feelings
  • I share your frustration
  • I share your pain
  • I share your loss
  • share (vb) To participate in, use, enjoy, or experience jointly TFD

I think you might be responding a bit too harshly to your well-meaning friend’s “I’m sorry,” because they’re possibly just making a connection with the related words “sorrow and sorrowful” and trying to express their heartfelt (and guiltless) sorrow/sorrowfulness to you.

However, I get what you’re saying and I think that “I’m sorry [that]” (misused as you describe) could often replace and more importantly, be replaced by “It’s such a shame [that] or What a shame [that],” as in the examples listed here under Item 1 (except the “beautiful table with a tablecloth” one) to express guilt-free sadness or disappointment to someone about “a situation [you wish] was different.” (from Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English)

  • Not really: he knows that English is just my fourth language and we're both computer scientists, so I'm confident that he's not crying silently in a corner, but I'll post a link to your worries and ask him personally. ;-)
    – Fabby
    Commented Sep 25, 2015 at 23:57
  • @Fabby Ok, that info does change things a bit. If you are responding like that to only this one fellow and you are, in fact, confident that he is just jerking you and your emotions around, then yeah, keep letting him have it and perhaps even through in a few "shame on you"s to boot!
    – Papa Poule
    Commented Sep 26, 2015 at 0:19
  • No, he's not jerking me or my emotions around, he actually said something like "I *generic word for sympathy/commiseration for you" after I told him not to apologise for something out of his control (BTW: you were faster responding to me then himself, so I still owe you an exact response to your emotions on the whole situation...) ;-)
    – Fabby
    Commented Sep 26, 2015 at 0:25
  • 1
    Oh, I'm definitely not crying in a corner. Commented Sep 26, 2015 at 5:07

I really don't understand what the problem is here. It's surely perfectly acceptable to use the word "sorry" in this case.


  1. feeling regret, compunction, sympathy, pity, etc.: to be sorry to leave one's friends; to be sorry for a remark; to be sorry for someone in trouble.

  2. sorrowful, grieved, or sad: Was she sorry when her brother died?

  3. associated with sorrow; suggestive of grief or suffering; melancholy; dismal. Dictionary.com


feeling sadness or sympathy for someone because something bad has happened to them.

sorry about: I’m sorry about your losing your job.

sorry to hear (that): I am sorry to hear that your father died. - Macmillan

In this sense, to say "I'm sorry" is not to apologise at all. It's not "misused". It means "I am sorrowful". And if someone has said that to you out of sympathy, you'd do better to accept their simply offered friendship with good grace, I think.

  • It's just a cultural thing: English is only my fourth language and in the other 3 apologising means that you're the cause of the sorrow. Also see my comment here. ;-)
    – Fabby
    Commented Sep 25, 2015 at 23:59
  • But I've made the point that, in this case, to say sorry is not to apologise.. What the other three languages mean is of no consequence to what the English means. Do you dispute the meanings that I've given evidence for? If so, fine. Just show your evidence.
    – Margana
    Commented Sep 26, 2015 at 18:47

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