Suppose you witnessed someone hearing something unpleasant, and you want to express sympathy for them.

Can we say

"I'm so sorry for you to hear that"


It it grammatical and natural?

I guess we could also say:

I'm so sorry that you heard that (it occurred just a while ago that you heard that)


I'm so sorry that you have to hear that. (Does this mean something different?)

  • 1) means that someone was saying something bad about you that you were not supposed to hear and did.
    – Lambie
    Jul 5 '19 at 5:47
  • 1
    What is the context this sentence is being use. Who said it? To whom? What does "that" refer to?
    – James K
    Jul 5 '19 at 5:58
  • @JamesK "that" is referring to the news like something Bruce Becker wrote in his answer. By the way, does my sentence sound natural?
    – GKK
    Jul 5 '19 at 7:01
  • Perhaps it would be more common to write I'm so sorry you had to hear that, but there's nothing wrong with it as it is. Jul 5 '19 at 8:34
  • 1
    @Floret Unless there is a particular reason why they think it's ungrammatical, I can't respond. Them simply not liking it isn't a good reason. At best, it just means it's not a construction they would use, which is a commentary on style, not grammar. Jul 5 '19 at 9:16

Let us assume that there are three people: Jack, Bob and Claire. Bob says to Claire: "By the way, your dog died". Jack, Claire's friend, says to Claire, "I'm so sorry for you to hear that."

Hearing that your dog died is a painful thing to hear for Claire. Jack empathises with Claire and wants to express his sympathy for her pain, so he says "I'm sorry for you to hear that" -- it is an expression of empathy.

So, both 1. and 2. are close, but should include the idea of expressing empathy.

  • But I really doubt whether my sentence sounds natural.
    – GKK
    Jul 5 '19 at 7:03
  • A bit of punctuation might help: "I'm so sorry, for you to hear that". A few extra words might also make it should more natural: "I'm so sorry for you to have had to hear that". "have had" because the thing happened at a moment in time in the past relative to when the person is speaking. Jul 5 '19 at 7:15
  • I just heard from a native speaker that my sentence doesn't make any sense and just ungrammaical, even given your context. I don't know why..
    – GKK
    Jul 5 '19 at 7:41
  • @BruceBecker Adding a comma there would not be a good idea. You could use a dash or ellipses, however. Jul 5 '19 at 8:36
  • Since this is a spoken phrase, this would be, in y opinion, a matter of style. However ellipsis implies that something is omitted. Nothing is omitted here, the speaker is linking two concepts "I am sorry" and "you heard that". That calls for a comma. Jul 5 '19 at 8:48

1) I'm so sorry (that) you heard that (it occurred just a while ago that you heard that).
1) Someone hears something they were not meant to hear. Past Tense.

2) I'm so sorry (that) you have to hear that.
2) I'm telling you now you are doing a poor job. I am so sorry you have to hear that. Present Tense

Neither of those can be expressed as: I'm sorry for you etc.

To be sorry for someone means to pity them.

So, the only way to pity someone if they hear something they should not while using the preposition for would be to say:

I'm sorry for you as or because you heard that or have to hear that or had to hear that.

It is not usually what one might say.

  • I think I'm so sorry for you to hear that/to have had to hear that are also grammatical. In a real-life conversation, for example, I think most native speakers would accept them without noticing anything odd. Your examples with the that- clauses would undoubtedly be preferred style in high registers and in writing. Jul 22 '19 at 16:18
  • @JimReynolds "I sorry for you to hear that" is simply not: I'm sorry that you heard that. "I'm sorry for you" means I pity you in English. "I'm sorry you had to hear that.". As written, it is not grammatical in English.
    – Lambie
    Jul 22 '19 at 17:05

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