How to Express Sadness in English

Learn to Voice Your Feelings and Your Care for Others

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Some days aren't as good as others, and from time to time, you may, in fact, feel sad. Learning how to express your feelings can be really important for your everyday life. Having the right vocabulary can help you get through the sadness and also let others know how you are feeling. It will also help you learn 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 that helps express your feelings at the moment of speaking. However, 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 example sentences is a formula that shows you how to construct the sentence, including the subject and the verb "to be":

Subject + be + feeling down about something

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

Subject + be + upset about something

  • I'm upset about my friends' dishonesty.
  • 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 formal forms when speaking with people at work or those you don't know very 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. Instead, it describes a particularly heavy rain.

Some of the common English idioms that express sadness are:

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 people tell you they are sad, it's important to express concern and sympathy. 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.

Sentence Examples

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

Formal

  • I'm (so) 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?

Sentence Examples

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

Encouraging Others to Speak

If you see that someone is sad, but that person is not talking to you about it, it may sometimes be best to give them space. However, to show the person you are there for them, use the following phrases and questions to get them to open up about their feelings.

  • You don't seem to be yourself today. Is anything the matter?
  • You seem sad. You can tell me all about it if you want.
  • Why the long face?

Note: In sensitive situations like talking about someone's negative feelings, your intonation and overall approach can be really crucial. Make sure you are not coming across as a pushy or prying person. Instead, try to convey that you simply want to help.

Example Dialogues

These dialogues will help you and a friend or 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 makes no sense! I just don't feel well about it at all.
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. You can tell me all about it if you want.
Anna: OK, well, 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, help me distract myself. Let's go exercise together!

Sue: Now you're talking. The new dance class at the gym would help you feel much better.
Anna: Yes, maybe that's what I really need.