A context:

I've heard that you won. I'm happy for you.

An opposite context:

I've heard that you lost. _________________________

To fill in the blank that should have the opposite sense of "I'm happy for you", how about these?

(1a) I'm sorry for you.

(1b) I feel sorry for you.

(2a) I'm sad for you.

(2b) I feel sad for you.

(3a) I'm bad for you.

(3b) I feel bad for you.

Do these sound idiomatic to native speakers?

Also, I wonder if there's any better alternative(s) for the blank.

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    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 3:33
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9 Answers 9


A common expression is: I feel for you.

feel for someone — phrasal verb ​

to experience sympathy for someone: - I know she’s unhappy, and I feel for her.

(Cambridge Dictionary)

  • 4
    "I am bad for you" suggests the idea that you are bad or the other person thinks you are bad. "I feel bad for you" is fine.
    – user66974
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 7:14
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    Yes, I'd say so.
    – user66974
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 7:20
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    @JK2 Josh is right but you need to be aware that they carry widely different nuances. For example, "I feel sorry for you" is perhaps more used in sarcasm. e.g. "You voted Brexit?" - "I feel sorry for you".
    – WS2
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 7:26
  • 2
    Any expression can be used sarcastically, it depends on context and, especially in spoken language, by the tone you use. In your sentence, as it stands, it can hardly sound sarcastic.
    – user66974
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 7:32
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    @Josh I do agree that any expression can be used sarcastically. But "I feel sorry for you" is quite a heavy sentiment to express, if used other than sarcastically. We rarely say directly to someone "I feel sorry for you" - even if we do. Though we might say of a third party "I feel sorry for George, he's suffered two close bereavements in six months".
    – WS2
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 8:21

I would say "I'm sorry to hear that".

I always have the feeling that if I say "I'm sorry" I'm accepting some kind of responsibility.

  • 2
    Specifically, "I was sorry to hear that you lost."
    – JeffC
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 19:42
  • Also, feeling sorry for or pitying a person is offensive to that person. But it's OK to be sorry about things: "I'm sorry to hear that"; "I'm sorry for your loss"; "I'm so sorry."
    – Maverick
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 20:29
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    "I'm sorry" is only a sympathetic statement; a recognition that someone has been deprived of something, and nothing more. I've always wondered by people confuse sympathy for responsibility. It is one of the things that held Australia back politically for many years after the harm caused by previous generations. That doesn't mean that it can't be extended to accept responsibility e.g. "I'm sorry that I offended you", but alone it is never so. Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 23:16
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    @tudor Because we use the same word when we do mean that we are accepting responsibility. “I’m sorry” is not only a sympathetic statement; in other contexts, it can be an apology, which is an implicit acceptance of responsibility. Your claim that alone it is never so is flatly incorrect. It’s a problem with the English language. But then, I also suspect that in most political situations where someone (or some country) is expect to say “I’m sorry,” an apology is actually what is desired, not merely sympathy, so even if the English language were less ambiguous it probably wouldn’t help.
    – KRyan
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 15:27
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    @tudor it's still a problem for millions to this day. Apologizing for something can actually create legal and financial liability, even though it's ridiculous.
    – barbecue
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 13:40

You can use a single word: commiserations.

Commiserations noun 1.1 commiserations Expressions of sympathy and sorrow for another. ‘To the victors our sincere congratulations, to the vanquished our equally sincere commiserations.’ ‘I offer you my commiserations on the situation in which you find yourself.’ - ODO

For your sample sentence, it would look like this:

  • I've heard that you lost. Commiserations.
  • Thanks, and I'm sorry, Lawrence. I've changed my examples along with the numbering. Could you please update your answer accordingly?
    – JK2
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 7:03
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    I would add that this is a very formal expression, and said vis-a-vis to a distraught player who had lost an important match, would sound somewhat distant and cold.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 10:20
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    @Mari-Lou Although that is cultural. There's a certain subset of stiff-upper lip Britishness it would fit in to perfectly. Possibly to be followed by "Poor show old chap!"
    – origimbo
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 11:44
  • @JK2 That's ok. I've taken out the references to your set of sentences. To answer the question in the body of your question - I don't think any of the sample sentences are particularly idiomatic. Josh's "I feel for you" is a very good fit for that form. Of your numbered sentences, don't use 3b - that's a statement about your nature or your action, not your sympathy.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 12:45
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    @Mari-LouA Yes, you're right. It's rather too cerebral to be of much comfort in a time of personal difficulty. In the context of cheering up someone who lost a game of sports, though, it's probably fine. :)
    – Lawrence
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 12:53

There is the idiom (that's) too bad:

It is unfortunate.; I'm sorry to hear that.
Tom: I hurt my foot on our little hike. Fred: That's too bad. Can I get you something for it? Tom: No, I'll live.
Bob: My uncle just passed away. Tom: That's too bad. I'm sorry to hear that. Bob: Thanks.
The Free Dictionary by FARLEX

Notice that the second example above also adds I'm sorry to hear that. But, the idiom works by itself for your example:

I've heard that you lost. That's too bad.

  • 4
    In my experience, "that's too bad" often has a negative or ironic connotation and might not be appropriate.
    – SplittyDev
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 19:42
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    All of the provided examples can be used negatively or ironically. Fred: I've heard that you lost. That sucks. Barney: Thanks. Fred: Sucks to be you! It does not mean they cannot be used to convey genuine sympathy. I have not experienced an over abundance of ironic uses of too bad.
    – jxh
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 19:54

I've heard that you lost. That sucks.

Not literally the opposite, but the literal opposite ('I'm sad for you') is kind of nonsensical. Commiseration is the appropriate response in this situation.

  • Please provide reference to support your answer.
    – user66974
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 14:03
  • 3
    This would be considered very informal.
    – JeffC
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 19:44
  • On the other hand, "That sucks" is only a couple of off-ramps down the turnpike from "Sucks to be you," which amounts to saying "I wouldn't want to be in your shoes" and, like that expression, is far more observational than commiserative.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Mar 4, 2017 at 1:45

On a slightly different track than the other answers, and depending on circumstances, the phrase better luck next time is one I use frequently. Obviously this only works in circumstances where there is likely to be a next time...

I'm sorry you didn't get a better SAT score, but better luck next time.

-Cambridge Dictionary online


"How Unfortunate" is a formal and not-so emotional way to express your feelings.

"Sorry To Hear That" Is also quite formal and in the Unites States, it is often shortened to "I'm Sorry" as you may have seen in Hollywood films.

"My Apologies" is not a very common saying and mainly used by older and upper-class people

"My Condolences" is basically the same as the previous one, both in popularity and syntax.

"That's A Bummer" is more colloquial and mainly used in the United States, it wouldn't be used in response to anything serious, like the loss of a family member. You could say "that's a bummer" if someone lost a bet, for example.


Hard luck (or 'tough luck'). Using your example —

I heard that you lost. Hard luck!

To me, would sound much more casual than a longer sentence (e.g. "I'm sorry to hear that", etc.) From Cambridge Dictionary:

hard luck! (British)

used to express sympathy to someone because something slightly bad has happened:

"We lost again." "Oh, hard luck!"

Example in context from the BBC (I think it's a podcast):

Callum: … Well that’s about all we have today, before we go though, the answer to this week’s question. Which planet is mostly closest to Earth? Neil, you said ….

Neil: I said Mars.

Callum: It’s actually Venus. Venus is actually closest to Earth for most, for most time. So hard luck on that one.

BBC Learning English 6 Minute English: Day-trip with a difference

'Tough luck' can go both ways — showing sympathy or indifference — so maybe best to use with care. For example, here is Novak Djokovic commiserating with Andy Murray, after beating him in last year's Australian Open:

I need to pay respect to Andy for having another great tournament. Tough luck tonight.

He's a great champion, great friend and a great professional who I'm sure will have many more chances to win this trophy.

BBC Newsround: Novak Djokovic beats Andy Murray to win sixth Australian Open title

But the only definition given by Cambridge Dictionary is the opposite one:

tough luck

(offensive: tough shit; informal)

said to show that you have no sympathy for someone's problems or difficulties:

"They lost a lot of money on their investment." "Tough luck - they should have been more careful."


I'm actually happy for you.

Most times I've heard "I'm happy for you" was either envy/disinterest very rarely shared joy in my experience

Instead, I would say

Sorry to hear about your loss

And by saying "to hear about" you emphasise it's a mere event not something serious. In this specific context sorry is fine as long as you refer to the event as an event not a shared experience. Except it's a shared experience in which case you can say

I know how you feel.

  • 1
    Perhaps this is better as a comment rather than an answer. What would you say to someone who lost an important match? And if you can, please supply an explanation, or some external support for your choice. Otherwise your contribution risks being deleted by the community. Thanks.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 10:49
  • Edited.. was making a quip
    – Josh
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 10:54
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    Not my downvote, but "I'm sorry for your loss" is usually said to a bereaved person, not to someone who has lost a match. It's a bit over the top IMO. I know how you feel is much better, and I'd place it in bold if I were you. EDIT: Ops. "sorry to hear about your loss" is actually better. +1 from me.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 11:00
  • Sorry "about" not for
    – Josh
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 11:01
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    Also by saying "to hear about" you emphasise it's a mere event not something as serious as death
    – Josh
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 11:02

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