10 Professional Ways to Say “I Am Sorry to Hear That”

When someone shares some bad news with you, it can be hard to know how to respond appropriately. Sure, you could say “I am sorry to hear that,” but is it the most professional choice?

This article will help you understand that question. We’ve compiled the best professional synonyms for “I am sorry to hear that” to help you figure out your next steps.

Is It Professional to Say “I Am Sorry to Hear That”?

It is professional to say “I am sorry to hear that.” It’s a good way to apologize or show regret after receiving some bad news from an employee or colleague.

While it’s a good formal option, it’s not always friendly. “Sorry to hear that” doesn’t show genuine regret for someone’s situation.

Don’t get us wrong; it’s still polite. It’s just not the most friendly way to sympathize with someone’s situation.

Here’s an example to show you how it works:

I am sorry to hear that you are not feeling well, Marcus.


  • It’s formal and works in emails.
  • It is a simple apology that works regardless of the problem someone has.


  • It’s not very friendly.
  • It’s generic, so most people don’t think it’s a genuine apology.

Of course, “I am sorry to hear that” is very effective as a professional phrase. However, some alternatives sound more friendly and formal. It’s worth learning more about them.

Keep reading to explore other options. Then, you can spice up your writing and keep things interesting.

What’s Another Way to Say “I Am Sorry to Hear That”?

  • I am very sorry
  • It’s a shame
  • It fills me with regret
  • I can’t believe that
  • I’m sorry that
  • I regret to hear that
  • It’s unfortunate
  • What a shame
  • It’s sad that
  • It’s wrong that

1. I Am Very Sorry

A professional way to say “I am sorry to hear” doesn’t have to be complicated or confusing. You don’t have to use ridiculously long or pretentious words. In fact, “sorry” still works best.

So, why not try “I am very sorry” instead? It’s a great alternative that keeps things formal and polite. You should use it when an employee has emailed to let you know they’re sick and you’d like to show some care.

You can check out the following email example to help you:

Dear Phoebe,

I am very sorry that you are sick. Let me know when you start to feel better. Until then, I’ll find a cover for you.

All the best,
Sam Young

2. It’s a Shame

Sometimes, “sorry” isn’t the only word that works in this context. You may also say “it’s a shame” to convey regret or sorrow.

This is a great phrase to include when emailing employees who can’t make it to work. Using “it’s a shame” is a little more conversational, though. You should only use it when you have a more friendly relationship with the recipient.

You may learn more from the following sample email:

Dear Melissa,

It’s a shame that you couldn’t come in today. I hope you feel better tomorrow, as it’s not the same without you.

Best regards,
Adam Reid

3. It Fills Me With Regret

If you’re looking for a truly professional phrase, you can try “it fills me with regret.” Of course, it’s an impersonal synonym for “I am sorry to hear that,” so you shouldn’t use it when emailing friends.

Instead, you should use it when emailing former employees. It’s a deeply regretful phrase that works best in emails sent to people who left your company. After all, it suggests that you regret not being able to hold on to the employee.

Here’s a quick look at an email example to show you how it works:

Dear Hughie,

It fills me with regret that you will no longer be working with us. However, I know this is what’s best for you.

Kind regards,
Tim Horton

4. I Can’t Believe That

You should use “I can’t believe that” when you’ve heard really bad news via email. For instance, perhaps one of your favorite employees is leaving. Well, it’s quite shocking news to receive. So, you need a phrase that conveys that shock while remaining professional.

If you “can’t believe” something, it shows you don’t know how to respond. It works best to show an employee how much you genuinely respect them and all the work they do.

You can learn more from this example email:

Dear Christopher,

I can’t believe that you are leaving. It feels like you’ve been at this company for such a long time.

All the best,
Missy Kylo

5. I’m Sorry That

You don’t have to make things hard for yourself when figuring out how to say “I am sorry to hear that” in an email. After all, “sorry” is already in the original phrase. You should stick with it to show genuine regret.

“I’m sorry that” might not look like much, but it works well in business emails. It shows you have understood the bad news someone sent (i.e. if they’re not able to make it to work because of sickness).

You can also refer to this sample email to help you:

Dear Ben,

I’m sorry that you feel poorly. I hope you have a speedy recovery and get back to the office soon.

Best wishes,
Greta Keating

6. I Regret to Hear That

Generally, regret and sorrow go hand in hand. So, it’s common for “regret” and “sorry” to appear as synonyms in formal contexts. Try saying “I regret to hear that” when emailing someone you respect that has shared some sad news.

For instance, maybe your favorite client is leaving your company. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but these things happen in business. This phrase is a great way to show the client how much you value them.

Here is an email sample if you’re still not sure:

Dear Bryony,

I regret to hear that you are leaving. Is there anything I can do that might change your mind?

All the best,
Abigail Dusson

7. It’s Unfortunate

When something is “unfortunate,” it means it’s sad but often unavoidable. So, you can say “it’s unfortunate” in a business email after receiving a bad message from an employee.

For instance, if an employee tells you they’re sick, that might be unfortunate. You can include this in your email reply to let them know that you feel for them and hope they recover soon.

Here is an example to show you how it works:

Dear Sarah,

It’s unfortunate that you are sick, but I’ll get someone in to cover. Thank you for telling me.

Kind regards,
Lewis Sutton

8. What a Shame

It might not be the most professional option, but “what a shame” works well in some business emails. Sure, there are more formal alternatives to “I am sorry to hear that,” but “what a shame” has its purpose.

We recommend using “what a shame” when emailing colleagues you are friendly with. It’s a fairly conversational phrase that shows you sympathize with them, even if you can’t do much about the negative situation.

You can also refer to this example to help:

Dear Elliot,

What a shame that you do not feel well. Let me know when you’re feeling a bit better.

See you soon,
George Walker

9. It’s Sad That

As long as we acknowledge a sad situation, we don’t always need to write “sorry.” Something like “it’s sad that” does well in sounding formal and respectful after someone sends you something negative.

However, you should be careful with the tone of this one. The recipient could easily misinterpret it if they think you’re being sarcastic.

For instance:

It’s sad that you can’t come in.

Here, you can take the phrase two ways.

When using an appropriate tone, “it’s sad that” shows you sympathize with the recipient and wish them well.

However, if you use it sarcastically, it instead implies that you don’t trust the recipient. It’s a dangerous game, so make sure you only use it in the first instance when being professional.

Here’s a useful email example to show you how to use it:

Dear Terrianne,

It’s sad that you couldn’t come to me with this sooner. I wish you a speedy recovery.

All the best,
Ryan Howard

10. It’s Wrong That

You can say “it’s wrong that” to show that you don’t agree with something. It generally refers to sympathizing with someone by saying something bad has happened to them.

For example, if an employee tells you they’re sick, you could say it’s “wrong.” It doesn’t mean they aren’t sick. Instead, it’s an empathic way to show sorrow for them and hope they feel better.

Here’s a quick example to also show you how it works:

Dear Adrian,

It’s wrong that you aren’t feeling well. I’m sorry you’ve had to go through that. Let me know when you’re better.

Best wishes,
Carl Clark