In situations like

  1. One of my colleague message me saying, I'm not able to join this week lunch
  2. One of the speaker message me saying, I'm not able to join the conference this time

Is it appropriate to "it's a sad news" or "Sad to hear that"? I think "Sad" is for more serious situations like "accident", "Funeral" etc. but in this kind of situation what is the appropriate way to express the feeling?


Your intuition (feeling) is right; "sad" is too strong. Usually, we use "That's sad news" or "I'm sad/sorry to hear that" when we hear that someone died or became very sick. For example:

A: "I can't go to the party today. My father has pneumonia, and he's still in hospital." B: "I'm sad to hear that. I hope he gets well soon."

What you can say here is, "That's too bad," or "That's a shame." We often follow this with an optimistic phrase, like, "I hope you enjoy your evening," or, "Maybe next time!"

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"Sad" is okay. You will find it more often expressed as "I'm sad to hear that." As there will be a change in tone, you'll often hear "Oh,.." placed in front to mark it. Sad isn't really strange but if it doesn't feel right to you don't use it (it is meant to express your feelings after all). More often you may hear "shame", which is a bit more neutral:

"Oh, that's a shame"

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Sad when used like this will mean disappointed.

It's appropriate to use if disappointment is the thing to express. Disappointment can be judgemental and negative (e.g. failing to do something required), or an expression that you would wish circumstances would be different (such as when someone you want to come to a party can't make it).

Plain old "sad" with no other words can come off as snobbish or sarcastic.

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This is one of those idioms that grow, like Topsy, and either survive or die eventually. The more conventional expression would probably be

"I'm sorry to hear that"


"I'm sorry you won't be here. We'll miss you, and I hope you're all right."

In other words, showing concern for the person involved, showing him or her that he or she is important (at least to you, the speaker). Perhaps this usage has gained currency since President Donald Trump began using it as a one-word sentence in terse electronic Tweets to show his response to something that he deplored or felt was unfortunate.

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