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How to Express Condolences

Everyday Grammar: How to Express Condolences
Everyday Grammar: How to Express Condolences
How to Express Condolences
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Recently, my mother, Ellen died. She lived a very good life. She raised three daughters. She loved art, writing, and travel.

I miss my mom. So, for this week’s Everyday Grammar, I want to share how we can express sympathies, or condolences, when someone experienced the death of their loved one.

In American custom, we want to say that we care. We try to bring them comfort in their time of grief and sadness. We want to be gentle, considerate, and respectful while expressing sympathy.

But how do we do this in American English?

Showing our support

When someone dies, we usually use the phrasal verb pass away. This phrase combines the verb pass with the adverb away. We use this expression to talk about death in a more gentle and respectful way.

When we want to show our sympathy or understanding for the loss of someone, we can use these simple expressions:

I am sorry for your loss.

I was heartbroken by this sad news.

To be heartbroken means that we feel sad or hopeless, almost like our heart hurts when something bad happens. This sentence is in the passive voice. But we can change the sentence into the active voice by saying:

This sad news breaks my heart.

We also use these shorter expressions to describe our sadness:

My heartfelt condolences.

My deepest sympathies.

And we can add verbs and subjects to turn the expressions into complete sentences such as:

Please accept my heartfelt condolences (or my deepest sympathies) for your (or your family’s) loss.

Here, we turn the expression into a respectful command by using the phrase please accept.

Missing someone

To miss someone means that you feel sad and wish that they were still with you.

We use this verb when they are still alive, but we might not be able to see them as often as we would like. But we also use this verb to say that we miss someone if they have passed away:

He/She/They will be missed.

This sentence is in the passive voice and the future tense. In order to show that we currently miss someone, we can use the active voice saying:

I miss her a lot.

She misses her dad every day.

Sometimes, we share happy thoughts about someone who has passed away. For example:

I will never forget when she danced in Rio de Janeiro to her favorite songs.

They will never forget what he did for them.

When there are no words

Sometimes the feeling of loss is so great, that we do not always know what to say. For those times, we do have expressions that we can use, such as:

I am so sorry, but I am at a loss for words.

Words cannot express my sadness for your loss.

Words cannot express my deepest sympathies.

Closing thoughts

In today’s report, we learned some ways to express our condolences and sympathies to those experiencing the loss of a loved one.

We learned short expressions to share such as my heartfelt condolences and my deepest sympathies. We talked about ways to express how we miss someone. We even looked at a few expressions that we can share when we feel that there are no words to describe the feeling of loss.

I would like to close this report by thanking our readers and listeners over the past few weeks. Writing to us or leaving a comment has really meant a lot to me over the past month. I appreciate it so much!

Thank you, and I’m Faith Pirlo.

Faith Pirlo wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

condolence – n. a feeling or expression of sympathy and sadness especially when someone is suffering because of the death of a family member, a friend, etc.

comfort –n. a state of feeling less worried or upset after a time of trouble or pain

grief n. deep sadness, especially at the death of someone

phrasen. a group of two or more words that express a single idea but do not usually form a complete sentence

passive voice n. a way of writing or speaking that uses passive verbs where the subject receives the action of a verb.

active voice n. a way of writing of speaking that uses active verbs where the subject performs the action of the verb.

appreciate v. to enjoy and recognize the full worth of something


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