- I'm sorry. (empathy) - It's not your fault. (?)

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Senior Member
Hi all,
I had several experiences when an expression of empathy on unfortunate circumstances was answered by 'It's not your fault'. This was on someone's missing the train, visa troubles, food poisoning..
- all of them unrelated to me, and as I exclaim 'I'm sorry!' I hear 'It's not your fault'.
It feels completely surreal.
I would expect no answer, as to exclamations of delight such as: that worked out perfectly! or How nice!

I asked one native speaker (BE) about that strange response and he thought for a while and suggested 'I'm sorry for you' in place of 'I'm sorry' but he seemed very unconvinced, so I am asking here, what do you think?
Sorry doesn't necessarily mean admission of guilt; it is also an expression of sorrow or regret.
Is this rare?
Thank you.
  • MuttQuad

    Senior Member
    English - AmE
    Two different thoughts are being conveyed:

    1) I am sorry about the misfortune.

    2) Take some solace in knowing that you didn't cause this to happen.

    Not uncommonly offered together.


    Senior Member
    Thank you both.
    Quite normal, as a matter of fact.
    Do you mean the 'I'm sorry' as regret; or both that and the response?
    Take some solace in knowing that you didn't cause this to happen.
    This is a very very foreign concept to me. Would you please confirm again? that you mean the second person does the solace part? as below:
    X and siares: watching siares' house disappear into a tornado.
    X: I'm sorry.
    siares: It's not your fault.

    Was the person I asked correct, that 'I'm sorry for you' would not meet with the 'It's not your fault' response'?
    Which one (sorry, or sorry for you) would you prefer?
    Thank you.
    Last edited:


    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    It all depends on the circumstances.

    I have come across this on a business context where someone might say "I'm sorry" when apologizing for something that's gone wrong, and the customer might reply "Well, it's not your fault" the inference being it's those idiots you work for.

    But if I said "Oh I am sorry" or "I'm sorry to hear that" on learning that someone's house had been destroyed in a tornado, I'd be a bit surprised if they replied "It's not your fault".


    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    This appears to be a problem common to both BE and AE.

    Note Donny's longer expressions of sympathy. "I'm sorry" does typically sound like an apology for something the speaker has done. When expressing sympathy for someone's misfortune, a longer expression is usually used, such as—well, for example, a friend of mine told me last week (in an e-mail) that her young niece (who lived in another city and whom I had never met) had died. I replied, "I'm so sorry to hear about your niece"—not simply "I'm sorry." If I had known, or even met, my friend's niece, I would have gone on to make some further comment.

    I think the bottom line is that if you've accidentally bumped into someone on the street, or committed some other clumsy act, "I'm sorry" is appropriate. If you want to express sympathy, say something more.
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