How to describe the face one makes - like pressing together of lips to form a straight line - when they feel sorry for a person but have no solution to offer? The kind of face that says, "sorry, mate. wish I could help." A phrase for it would also work.

  • 1
    "put up a 'sorry-ass' face"
    – Elian
    Jan 12, 2016 at 18:44

4 Answers 4


I would use commiserative.

Feeling or expressing commiseration, compassion, pity or sympathy

–from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License; via Wordnik


The first word that came to my mind was a "sympathetic" face.

sympathetic (to/towards somebody) kind to somebody who is hurt or sad; showing that you understand and care about their problems

Oxford Learner's Dictionaries

Some actual examples from Google Books of this phrase being used:

His sympathetic face said she had a shoulder to cry on should she wish

For Want of a Fiend, by Barbara Ann Wright

Suyana couldn't hear Grace's response, but Ethan made a pained, sympathetic face.

Persona, by Genevieve Valentine


You could consider using apologetic which means the following:

Expressing or showing regretful acknowledgement of an offence or failure: 'an apologetic smile'

[Oxford Online Dictionary]

Ha made an apologetic face that said, "Sorry, mate. wish I could help."


Consider Compassionate.

Definition: pitying, sympathizing, showing a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

Example from Can you tell the difference between a smiling and menacing face?:

Participants search for a compassionate face among a number of critical faces, which retrains the automatic, unconscious biases towards threatening stimuli commonly shown by people with mood disorders, according to the study published in Plos One journal.

  • "sorry, mate. wish I could help" isn't terribly compassionate.
    – Stuart F
    Jun 23, 2022 at 13:01

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.