How to Express Sadness in English

Learn to Appropriately Voice Concern for Others, Too

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Some days aren't as good as others. In fact, you may feel sad from time to time. It's important to learn how to express sadness when you are feeling down. Also, you should know what to say when someone else is unhappy.

Structures Used to Express Sadness

The examples used in this section are in the present continuous tense to express feeling sad at the moment of speaking. You can also use these expressions in different tenses.

Informal:

Use these informal forms when speaking to close friends and family. Preceding each set of sentences, an example shows how to construct the sentence, including the subject and "to be" verb:

Subject + be + feeling down about something

  • I'm feeling down about work lately.
  • She's feeling down about her grades.

Subject + be + upset about something

  • I'm upset about my friends.
  • Tom's upset about his boss. He's too hard on him!

Subject + be + sad about something

  • I'm sad about the situation at work.
  • Jennifer's sad about her mother.

Formal:

Use these more formal forms when speaking to people at work or with those whom you don't know well.

Subject + be + out of sorts

  • I'm sorry. I'm out of sorts today. I'll be better tomorrow.
  • Peter is out of sorts today. Ask him tomorrow.

Subject + do not + feel well

  • Doug doesn't feel well today.
  • I don't feel well. I'm going to the doctor.

Expressing Sadness With Idioms

Idioms are expressions that don't literally mean what they say, such as: "It's raining cats and dogs." The expression doesn't mean that cats and dogs are falling out of the sky.

English uses common idioms when speaking about sadness:

Subject + be + feeling blue about something

  • Jack is feeling blue about his relationship with his girlfriend.
  • Our teacher said he was feeling blue about life last night.

Subject + be + in the dumps about something

  • We're in the dumps about our financial situation.
  • Kelly is in the dumps about her horrible job.

Showing Concern

When someone tells you he is sad, it's important to express concern. Here are some common phrases to show that you care.

Informal:

  • Bummer
  • I feel you.
  • Tough luck.
  • I can't believe that. That's horrible / disgusting / not fair

Examples of informal expressions of concern include:

  • I feel you. Life isn't always easy.
  • Bummer, but keep trying. You'll find a good job eventually.

Formal:

  • I'm sorry to hear that.
  • That's too bad.
  • What can I do to help?
  • Is there anything I can do for you?
  • Would you like to talk about it?

Some examples of formal expressions of concern are:

  • I'm sorry to hear that. What can I do to help?
  • That's too bad. Would you like to talk about it?

If you see that someone is sad, but that person is not telling you, use the following phrases to get her to open up about her feelings. Ask prompting questions when helping a friend or colleague who is feeling sad, such as:

  • What's the matter?
  • You seem sad. Tell me all about it.
  • Why the long face?

Example Dialogues

These dialogues will help you and a friend of fellow student practice expressing sadness or concern.

At work:

Colleague 1: Hi Bob. I'm feeling out of sorts today.
Colleague 2: I'm sorry to hear that.

What seems to be the problem?

Colleague 1: Well, I'm really upset about the changes at work.
Colleague 2: I know it's been difficult for everyone.

Colleague 1: I just don't understand why they had to change our team!
Colleague 2: Sometimes management does things we don't understand.

Colleague 1: It make no sense! I just don't feel well.
Colleague 2: Maybe you need some time off work.

Colleague 1: Yes, maybe that's it.
Colleague 2: Is there anything I can do to help?

Colleague 1: No, just talking about it makes me feel a little better.
Colleague 2: Feel free to talk to me anytime.

Colleague 1: Thanks. I appreciate it.
Colleague 2: No problem.

Between friends:

Sue: Anna, what's the matter?
Anna: Nothing. I'm fine.

Sue: You seem sad. Tell me all about it.
Anna: OK, I'm in the dumps about Tom.

Sue: Bummer. What seems to be the problem?


Anna: I don't think he loves me anymore.

Sue: Really! Are you sure about that?
Anna: Yes, I saw him yesterday with Mary. They were laughing and having a great time.

Sue: Well, maybe they were just studying together. It doesn't mean he's leaving you.
Anna: That's what I keep telling myself. Still, I'm feeling blue.

Sue: Is there anything I can do?
Anna: Yes, let's go shopping!

Sue: Now you're talking. A nice new pair shoes would help you feel much better.
Anna: Yes, maybe that's what I really need. Not a boyfriend but some beautiful new shoes.