I knew one person who was quite well known to me but was not my friend. I contacted him whenever I wanted to buy some components. My interactions with him were not regular but only when I required to buy something. My conversations with him were always courteous. Recently, I sent a mail to him asking for a quote. It was responded by his daughter. His daughter called me up and asked me if I was close to him. I said I did not have any answer to that question. Then I was told that he died eight months before. Now, if I say

[1]. Madam, I am sorry I was completely unaware of his passing away. or

[2]. Madam, I was not informed earlier of his passing away.

This does not in any way convey that my being unaware was not deliberate at all and it should also not be related to my not being close to him.

Is there any word that conveys both i.e. being unaware + attempt to being unaware is not deliberate.

I saw some synonyms and the following words (these are my interpretations and I may be wrong !!!) oblivious: probably gives an arrogant touch to the above sentence unmindful: May show that the news does not have any significance/bearing on the current conversation.

do not convey the second part. Is there any word that describes both feelings. thanks...

  • 1
    Is deliberately unaware a normal thing? I'm under the impression that, if you're unaware of someone's death, 99 times out of 100 you did not deliberately force yourself to not know about it...
    – Hank
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 13:32
  • 1
    Why would you need to explicitly mention that aspect? In the USA at least, it is normally done indirectly. -- Madam, I am so sorry to hear of your father's passing. He was an honorable man. I regret troubling you with this matter.
    – RichF
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 13:48
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    My comment to you isn't about a word that meets your request. In UK culture at least, people would never have considered it a possibility that you somehow deliberately kept yourself from hearing news of his death. All you need to do at this point is be polite. Faffing about with whether a bereaved family appreciate the precise degree to which you were or were not close to the deceased and emphasising that you didn't deliberately not know makes the whole situation about you. It isn't about you, it isn't respectful to make it so. Offer your condolences and stop fretting.
    – Spagirl
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 13:56
  • Also don’t call people Madam unless they’re judges, headmasters, or similar. There’s no need to use any title at all; just say, “Oh, I’m sorry—I didn’t know”. As others have said, being unaware of something is assumed to be unintentional. You don’t have to specify it. You would only have to specify if you had in fact been deliberately attempting to remain unaware (i.e., putting your fingers in your ears and going “Lalalalalala, I can’t hear you!” whenever someone tried to tell you). Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 15:53
  • The daughter's question (and calling instead of emailing) about closeness tells you she was trying to find the right way to break the bad news. It implies she imagined you were not close or would have heard sooner. No one is at fault. She was right, you were acquaintances and a customer of his. You could send a card briefly saying that the man was trustworthy, and your thoughts are with the family. Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 16:16

1 Answer 1


I wouldn't worry about it too much.

That you were unaware of his passing is implied by your asking him for a quote; there's no need to make it explicit if you're not comfortable doing so.

The best approach would be simplicity: I'm very sorry for your loss; I only knew him in passing, and I hadn't heard. I apologise for troubling you.

The idea that not knowing about a person passing away was in some way 'deliberate' seems quite strange to me. I really wouldn't worry about it.

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