A sad face means a face by which sadness is shown.

A sad time means a time when sadness is shown.

Then, technically, can a sad friend means a friend by whom sadness is shown?

It’s a little bit ambiguous though.

  • 1
    It would be more accurate to say that a sad time identifies a time when sadness is experienced. Aug 20, 2021 at 9:04
  • @Jeffrey Carney ❤
    – user139825
    Aug 20, 2021 at 9:09
  • Congratulations, you have discovered the concept of metaphor.
    – Colin Fine
    Aug 20, 2021 at 9:57

1 Answer 1


"Sad" has two primary uses as an adjective. When describing a person, it usually refers to their feelings, or mood. When describing most other things, it usually means that the thing either causes sadness, or that it is overshadowed with a mood of sadness.

So, a 'sad time' would be a period marked with sadness. For example, the period following a bereavement might be called "a sad time", because people living through it are sad.

Because your friend is a person, "a sad friend" would mean a person who is sad, perhaps going through a period of sadness. I can't see how anyone would interpret that any other way. I'm not even sure what you mean by "a friend by whom sadness is shown".

Note that in British English, "sad" is also used colloquially to mean pathetic.

  • It’s projection (the unconscious transfer of one's own desires or emotions to another person) of feeling.
    – user139825
    Aug 20, 2021 at 9:15
  • @user0203 If you mean your friend listens to and reflects your own sadness, it sounds like you have an empathetic friend.
    – Astralbee
    Aug 20, 2021 at 9:16
  • Yes! What an empathetic and sad friend!
    – user139825
    Aug 20, 2021 at 9:16
  • @user0203 An empathetic person might say they "were feeling sad for you", but it seems odd for you to describe them as sad when it is actually you that is sad. Similarly, "grieving" when describing a person tends to exclusively mean the bereaved. Friends might 'grieve' with you, but "the grieving" usually means the closest family.
    – Astralbee
    Aug 20, 2021 at 9:21
  • 'Note that in British English, "sad" is also used colloquially to mean pathetic.' — Trump was a good advocate of this usage across the pond too :) Aug 20, 2021 at 10:17

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