Can I say I am "regretful" for an accident which is not caused by me?

feeling or showing that you are sad or disappointed because of something that has happened or something that you have done or not done Oxford

I searched for the definition, and Oxford says "because of something that you have not done." Does it mean I can use the word for natural disasters? Or does it mean I can use regretful for something that I should have done but didn't?

  • 2
    compare regretable: oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/… ... I might help to give some examples in you question. Certainly you can't say that a disaster is regretful, since a disaster can't have feelings.
    – James K
    Commented Jul 20, 2022 at 6:35
  • 1
    @JamesK Thanks and sorry that my question was unclear. I edited it. I meant, can I say I feel/am regretful for an accident which was not caused by me? Commented Jul 20, 2022 at 10:11

2 Answers 2


Yes, 'because of something you have not done' means 'something you should have done but didn't' or 'something you had the opportunity to do but didn't'. You don't feel regretful about an incident that had nothing to do with you and wasn't your fault.


To expand my comment, "regretful" is a feeling you have as a result of your actions or inactions.

It doesn't make sense to say "The accident was regretful". An accident can't have feelings. And if you say "I feel regretful about the accident" you imply that you were in some way responsible.

There is another word "regrettable". This is often used to mean "unfortunate, but there's no long term damage" (so we're sorry, but not very sorry) "It was regrettable that the train was late, but we still reached the airport just in time for the flight."

I wouldn't use either about a natural disaster. "It was regrettable that 2000 people died in the earthquake" is too weak. It suggests that you aren't very upset about it.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .