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When searching for the phrase "I'm sorry to hear that" I can only find examples of it being used as a way to express condolences to someone:

Person A: “My goldfish died yesterday…”
Person B: “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that! How are you holding up?”

But is it also correct to use the phrase when both parties are equally affected by the bad news?:

Person A: “It’s going to rain tomorrow, so we have to cancel our trip to the beach.”
Person B: “I’m sorry to hear that! Do you want to go visit the museum instead?”

And is it still correct when the person receiving the news has more reason to feel upset?:

Person A: “Unfortunately all of our flights are fully booked.”
Person B: “I’m sorry to hear that. I guess I’ll just have to take the train instead.”

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    "Your mother just died". "I''m sorry to hear that, but we never really got on very well anyway". – FumbleFingers Feb 14 at 17:20
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Yes, it can be used in that context. It's more formal in that sort of situation, and usually conveys a sense of disapproval. Also wouldn't be used for very very bad news.

  • Could you elaborate on what you mean by “conveys a sense of disapproval”? Is it towards the person or the situation? And do you mean disapproval in the sense of feeling disappointment or placing blame? In the third example, how would person B most likely be interpreted?: as A: “I disapprove of the fact that I have to take the train now.” as B: “I disapprove of you for not selling me a flight ticket.” or C: “I disapprove of the airline for not providing enough seats on the plane”. – Bent Feb 14 at 18:01
  • A or C, not usually B. – SamBC Feb 14 at 18:02
  • So to conclude: The phrase can be used as a formal way of expressing (mild to moderate) disappointment, and can safely be used for that purpose without seeming rude? – Bent Feb 14 at 18:35
  • That is correct. – SamBC Feb 14 at 18:59

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