How to Express Condolences in English

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When someone dies, we show our sympathy to their relatives or friends. Though it’s difficult to console someone when they lose their dear ones, your condolence can help them restore their strength. However, it appears challenging for many ESL speakers to express condolence to the bereaved.

No worries! In this post, I will share some expressions that can help you express condolence in English.     

To express condolences, you must acknowledge the loss and grief of the bereaved by contacting them as soon as possible and express your sympathy either by talking to them in person or calling over the phone, or sending a letter or note or card. “I’m sorry to hear about your loss” is the most common message that people use to express condolences.

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Now I’ll share some expressions or messages and tips to help you express condolences in English. I’ll talk about how you can show sympathy to someone by talking to them and writing.

Expressing Condolences Verbally

Expressing Condolences
Expressing condolences verbally makes the bereaved feel better

When someone loses their loved ones, it becomes the others’ responsibility to console them and help them accept the death. The best practice is to do it with your word of mouth. You can offer your condolences in person or over the phone as well.

However, the best way to express condolences is to meet them as early as possible you get the news. If not possible, you can express your condolences over the phone. Talking to someone is usually better than sending any text or voice message while expressing condolences.

Remember! When someone loses their dearest ones, they may not be in a situation to talk. Wait and understand the situation and act accordingly.

General Condolence Expressions

Here I present some examples of general condolences that you can use as a part of immediate personal condolences.

  • I’m heartbroken to learn about your loss.
  • This news astounded me. I’m heartbroken about your loss.
  • Hearing this news breaks my heart. I’m hoping for the best for everyone.
  • I adore you and am always here for you.
  • Please know that your friends care about you and are always willing to help.
  • Please accept my heartfelt empathy. My heart aches for you.
  • My deepest sympathy to you and your family.
  • God’s blessings on you and your loved ones.
  • In this challenging time, my thoughts and prayers are with you.
  • I’m heartbroken about your loss. I’ll miss her/him as well.
  • As you grieve, I wish you peace and comfort.
  • Please accept our heartfelt sympathies on your bereavement.
  • What a lovely life he/she led. I’m heartbroken about your loss.
  • My heart feels heavy today, and I’m sure it’s the same for you.
  • I am heartbroken by this loss and have no words to express my sorrow. I’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers.
  • Remember that you are being loved by all of us as you go through this tough time.
  • I’m thinking of you and your family as you mourn this loss. You have my undivided attention.
  • I wish I had been there to console you during this difficult time. I’m keeping you in my thoughts.
  • What a tragedy for the globe. So many people will miss him.
  • My heart aches for you and everyone who cared about her/him. This is an unrecoverable loss.
  • What a lovely person she was, and she will be sorely missed.

Now, let’s see some other examples in the following table. These examples are specific to situations like losing a parent, sibling, child, friend, spouse, etc. You can express them directly or over the phone as well.

If someone loses a parent1. I’m sorry to hear it. Your mother was an angelic character.

2. Your father was a true gentleman. May his soul rest in peace.

3. I’m sure that heaven is your mother’s place. She was much of a good heart.

4. All of us will miss your mother. She showed us how to care for people.

5. Your mother was like a second mom to me. May God bless her.  
If someone loses a sibling1. I am heartbroken hearing the loss of your sister. She was a very good girl.

2. Your brother was a true gem. It’s a huge loss for the world.

3. I wish I could meet her again. She was a wonderful company.

4. I feel lucky that I could meet such a person in my life. I wish your brother a peaceful life wherever he is.

5. Your sister was a genuine human being. I’m at a loss by the loss of your sister.
If someone loses a child1. She was such a sweet kid. God knows what better is kept for her.

2. I can’t express how bad I’m feeling for your son. I have a lot of good memories of him.

3. I’m sorry to hear about the loss. Expect me anytime if you need me.

4. Knowing your beautiful child was a pleasure for me. May God bless him.

5. My heart aches to hear the news. I have words to console you. God bless your child.
If someone loses a friend1. She was such a close friend of yours. I appreciate the care she had for you. May God be with her.

2. Death can end one’s life, but not a relationship. You will always be friends, no matter how far you are from each other.

3. Friendship is eternal. We’ll cherish the memories of her forever.

4. I feel honored remembering that I had the opportunity to meet such a good friend of yours. He was a symbol of true friendship.

5. I’m sorry for the loss. Words are limited to express the care he had for you. May his prayer always be with you and yours to him.
If someone loses a spouse1. She was a true life partner. May God bless her.

2. Your love story is an example to all of us. Your wife was the epitome of love.

3. Your husband was an inspiration to me. He was such a good human being.

4. I hope your wife is in heaven by now. Keep her in your prayer.

5. Your husband was my friend. He was the best husband and the best friend of this world.

Expressing Condolences through Writing

You can send a condolence letter, a text message, a note, or a card to express condolences when someone loses their relative, family member, or friend. However, it’s pretty common that we don’t find appropriate words, and we wonder whether my writing will comfort the bereaved.  

Writing a Condolence Letter

Expressing Condolences
Acknowledge and respect the feelings of the bereaved in the letter

Sending condolence letters was a widespread practice even a few decades ago. However, nowadays communication has developed a lot. We can call people anytime, no matter which part of the world they are in.

However, a condolence letter is still a common practice, mainly in business relationships and long-distance personal relationships. We can send letters via post office or e-mails as well.

Let’s see what we should take into consideration while writing a condolence letter.

  • Mention the name of the person who died in the letter so that the bereaved can feel the importance you are giving to the loss.  
  • Acknowledge and respect the feelings of the bereaved by your words and the tone of the letter as a whole.
  • Refer to some good qualities of the deceased and appreciate them for their good deeds and attributes.
  • You can use some famous quotations to help the bereaved feel hopeful.
  • Write and send the letter at the right time. Don’t be too early or late.
  • Express your feelings and emotions as simply as possible.
  • Be considerate about the religious beliefs of the deceased and the bereaved.
  • You can give hope by talking about some things but never give advice.
  • Maintain the formality of the letter’s language considering your relation with the bereaved.
  • Be genuinely sympathetic and express your true feelings with appropriate expressions.

Remember! The condolence letter structure is similar to the format of a usual letter. The difference is in the body of the letter. Here is a sample condolence letter that you can have a look at to get a clear idea about how it should look.

Dear Jack,

I was grieved and heartbroken to know about your sister’s demise. You and Laura were not only siblings but also good friends. I can understand a bit how unbearable your sorrow can be as I also lost my sister last year. Still, I want to say that I am always here to be with you in every possible way.

Your elder sister Laura was a great support to your family. Her incredible sense of responsibility and strong commitment were inspiring to us. She was also very helpful to the people around her. I still can remember her utmost support in my bad days. I must mention that you also possess the same human qualities as your sister.

I still can remember when I meet Lura for the first time while visiting your place two years back. I can recall the tremendous care she had for me. I felt like she is my sister too. I feel lucky that I could meet such a person in my life.

My wife and I will come to see you the day after tomorrow and stay with you for a few days. You don’t need to worry about taking care of your son, James. I want you to take complete rest for the coming days apart from the funeral and other formalities.

I wish you the strength to accept the loss and recover peace. We are always beside you to help in any situation. I wish your brother a peaceful life wherever he is. May the almighty God be with all of us.

With prayers and love,


Writing a Condolence Note or Message

Instead of writing a letter, you may want to write a note or a message on a card and post them on social media or send them texts via Messenger, Whatsapp, Viber, etc. However, it may appear difficult to express the feeling correctly in a limited number of words to some people.

While writing a condolence note, you must keep it short and meaningful. You can take Ideas from the examples I mentioned in the General Condolence Expressions section. However, I must talk about what are the things that you should not do while writing a condolence note or message.

What You Shouldn’t Do in a Condolence Note

Expressing Condolences
Don’ts of writing a condolence note
  1. Don’t try to show that you can fully understand the sorrow of the bereaved.
  2. Never say anything that can make the bereaved more emotional and result in more pain.
  3. Don’t say anything irrelevant and ingenuine.
  4. No advice, please. No one is ready to take advice after losing their dear ones.
  5. Don’t try to validate the death of the person.
  6. Never remind any bad memories.
  7. Don’t say that the person who died had a short or full life.
  8. Don’t blame anyone for the death.
  9. Never write anything pessimistic or overly optimistic.

A Sample Conversation on Expressing Condolences in English

Teacher: Hey, Adriana! Are you alright? You look a bit off today.

Adriana: Good afternoon, Mrs. Martha. I’m fine, thanks. 

Teacher: Are you sure? 

Adriana: Yeah… actually, not totally. 

Teacher: Tell me what’s bothering you. 

Adriana: Ummm… my math test didn’t go well this time too. And I’m afraid my dad won’t be happy to know about it. 

Teacher: Oh, I see. How much have you scored this time?

Adriana: I’ve received a B+ this time. 

Teacher: Okay. And what did you get in the last term?

Adriana: C. 

Teacher: Hmmm. I wish I could help you. I feel your grief since I had bad days with math in my school days as well. 

Adriana: That’s so nice of you, Mrs. Martha. 

Teacher: Well, I guess you should be positive, you know. 

Adriana: Really? How so? My dad will be mad. 

Teacher: See, you got a C in the last term. Now you’ve got a B+. I must say that’s quite an improvement – don’t you think? 

Adriana: Yeah! But I wish my dad could get it. 

Teacher: Maybe he would understand if I could talk to him.

Adriana: You will? 

Teacher: Sure, why not? 

Takeaway Words

Bother (verb) = to annoy or irritate someone

Grief (noun) = a mental state of pain, suffering, struggles, etc.

In Conclusion

Expression of condolence is always difficult. It becomes more difficult to do it in English when English is your second language. However, I have tried to present different expressions and ways to express condolences in English.

Thanks for reading!

Happy learning!   

Niaj A A Khan is an ESL Instructor with over 7 years of experience in teaching & developing resources at different universities and institutes. Mr. Khan is also a passionate writer working on his first book, "Learn English at Ease."

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