I don't quite understand what exactly is meant by sad to relate as it's used in the following picture:

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  • 1
    If you know what "relate" means and what "sad" means, what is it you're finding puzzling here? Consider that "it is" is omitted before that phrase. Commented Sep 7, 2015 at 12:56
  • @VictorBazarov Well is it an adjunct describing the subject? Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 16:31
  • I don't think it's an adjunct. It looks like an adverbial phrase, similar to "Unfortunately," or "Interesting to note," -- conveys the feeling of the speaker rather than the situation by itself. Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 17:18
  • @VictorBazarov "Adjunct" is modern H&P speak for the term "adverbial" Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 18:53
  • Good to know, thanks. Still, the point is that it does not relate to any part of the sentence, IMHO. Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 18:58

2 Answers 2


The phrase sad to relate is being used as a parenthetical phrase meaning sadly. It is easy to understand why this phrase is difficult. The head word here is the adjective sad. Because of this, the phrase looks like an Adjunct which might describe the Subject of the main clause:

  • Sad to relate the news, Bob told them that they had not passed the exam.

In the sentence above sad to relate the news describes Bob, the Subject of the main clause.

However, this cannot make sense in the Original Poster's example:

  • Sad to relate, this was a case of XYZ.

Here the word this means the previous example. The example cannot be sad, and it isn't relating anything to anyone. The sentence means something like:

  • Sadly, this was a case of XYZ.
  • re·late /rəˈlāt/ verb 1. give an account of (a sequence of events); narrate. Therefore, "sad to relate" = "(it is)sorrow-inducing to tell(you about this)" Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 17:42
  • @VictorBazarov Sorry old bean, don't know what you're angling at? Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 22:43

The verb "narrate" means to give an account of, narrate, or tell. We often hear the idiom "sad to say" that means I regret telling you. I think "sad to relate" means the same, but it's a bit formal.

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