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Well I'm still in college and I know from one of my friends that another friend's father died when she was young. Now how do I react politely if she tells me that in some situation. "Oh, sorry to hear that" seems appropriate, but is there a better response?

  • It's certainly OK to reply "Yes, I'd heard that." – Hot Licks Oct 23 '16 at 2:35
  • Do you really want to say "Allow me to offer you my sincere condolences"? Better to say "I heard that your father died. I'm really sorry", but a really sympathetic smile (and a hug if you're females) may do more good. In the end, there are no good words. – Mick Oct 23 '16 at 2:38
  • Note that, since this death was decades ago, offering "condolences" isn't really appropriate. – Hot Licks Oct 23 '16 at 2:46
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    @HotLicks Might be worth double-underlining that tone and expression are everything with that, because they are the difference between being quite extraordinarily callous and rude, and certainly okay, as you put it - although it'd be safer and nicer to add an (even perfunctory) 'sorry' – Au101 Oct 23 '16 at 3:34
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    I would say: 'is deceased' or 'has died/passed' instead of has deceased. Doesn't quite sound right to me. – D. Clayton Oct 23 '16 at 8:37
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That's as good as it gets. Responses like “my condolences”, “he’s in my prayers” and “sorry for your loss” are usually used for recent deaths, and comments like “he's in a better place now” or “at least you're doing well without him” are risky if you don't know how the person feels about having grown up without a father, or their religion.

To sum it up, “sorry to hear that” is short, polite and neutral.

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