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My friend called me and told he that he failed in an exam.

In my language, we usually say:

I'm sorry to hear that.

while in English, I've noticed people mostly using:

I'm sorry for that.

My question is—

Is "I'm sorry to hear that" correct as a response in English as in my language?

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    Also informally "Sorry 'bout that." (AmE)
    – user3169
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 19:44

2 Answers 2

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Yes, it's idiomatic to use sorry to hear that in this sort of context. In fact, you could argue that it's more prevalent than saying sorry for that. Another common phrase is sorry about that.

You could also make the case that saying sorry for that indicates that you might be accepting some of the blame for the bad consequences, whereas saying sorry to hear that would only ever indicate that you are consoling someone.

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  • Thank you 1+. What about "I'm sorry to know that"? Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 16:25
  • @VersatileandAffordable, that would have a different meaning. With bad news, there is unpleasantness associated with the news, but knowing the news is necessary to react or console. "Sorry to know that" would go to not wanting to know, like burying your head in the sand.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 17:39
  • Kindly, can you give me an example for usage in this phrase? Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 18:40
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People commonly say "sorry to hear that" in this context.

You wouldn't normally say "I'm sorry for that" unless it was something you did. Like, "Hey, somebody broke my chair." "Oh, yeah, I broke it last night. I'm sorry for that."

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  • Thank you1+ What do you think about: "I'm sorry about that"? is also -for your opinion- just for things that I do? By the way, which English do you represent? (Br, Am, Aus, Ca?) Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 18:42
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    "I'm sorry about that" could be used in either case, as an apology or to express sympathy. As an apology it's generally considered a weak apology, the sort of thing you say if you're not REALLY sorry or don't see it as a big issue. Like, "You stepped on my foot!" "Oh, sorry about that." If someone said, "Your mistake cost me $10,000" and you replied, "Oh, sorry about that", they would not be satisfied.
    – Jay
    Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 16:57
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    I'm an American. When we get into regional variations, I grew up in New York but have spent most of my life in the Great Lakes area.
    – Jay
    Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 16:59
  • Thank you very much for your answer and comments. I've learnt from you things that I didn't know before. I appreciate it. Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 17:46

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