Expressing Condolences in French: Useful Phrases + Examples

  • Adrien Renault
    Written byAdrien Renault
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Expressing Condolences in French: Useful Phrases + Examples

In English, we have several ways to show condolences.

We might say ‘I’m sorry for your loss’, or ‘my deepest sympathies’.

In the same way, there are many ways to express these in French.

If you’re trying to express condolences in French, and you’re just starting to learn French as a beginner, you’ll want to get the words right and convey your intended meaning correctly.

If you’d like to learn how to show sympathy in French, keep reading.

This guide will take you through some different options you have when expressing condolences in French.

Which French words are linked with loss and bereavement?

First, before we get to the examples, some of the words we use to refer to loss and bereavement in French include:

Le françaisEnglish
DécéderPass away
MourirDie
La mortDeath
La crémationThe cremation
La tombeThe tomb
Une veillée mortuaireA wake
Le deuilGrief
Les obsèquesFunerals
Se mettre en deuilGrieving
Il/Elle est décédéHe/She passed away
Il/Elle nous a quittésHe/She has left us

How do we say ‘sympathy’ in French?

The French counterpart to the word ‘sympathy’ is condoléances.

A translation will give you ‘condolences’ in English.

This cognate is commonly used in France and shows a person’s regret and sympathy following the death of a loved one.

However, there are other phrases for expressing this emotion.

Other essential French phrases for expressing condolences

Here are a few other key phrases you’ll need to use when expressing your condolences in French. Have you heard of these?

Le françaisEnglish
Mes sincères condoléancesMy sincere condolences
Mes chagrins les plus profondsMy deepest sorrows
Je vous offre mes condoléancesI offer you my condolences
Étre désolé pour…To be sorry for…
Je suis attristéI’m saddened by
Toutes mes condoléancesI am sorry for your loss

Expressing sympathy in the spoken form

You might have just learned about the death of a person close to you and your family.

How do you respond to this news?

Here are a few examples of typical responses in French when you’re notified about someone’s death.

Listen to audio

C’est une nouvelle terriblement triste. Je suis désolé. Je voudrais dire quelques mots à l’enterrement.

This is terribly sad news. I am sorry. I would like to say some words at the funeral.

If a family member passes away, and you know them well, you might use this sentence.

It uses the word enterrement, which is French for ‘funeral’, and shows how much the deceased meant to you.

Listen to audio

C’est affreux. Je pense à toi et à ta famille. Mes profondes condoléances à toi.

That’s awful. I’m thinking of you and your family. My deep condolences to you.

If your best friend’s parents pass away, you could use this example to show your support.

It reflects your sympathy and shows that you will be there for your friend at this tough moment.

Note, that each of these examples use the tu form, which is reserved for informal circumstances.

Listen to audio

Quel choc. Mes condolèances à toi.

What a shock. My condolences to you.

You might use this example when you have learned a close colleague’s family member has passed away.

If you know them well, you might add the word profondes, meaning ‘deep’, to emphasise how sorry you are.

The phrase would become: Que choc. Mes profondes condolèances à toi.

Formal and informal ways to express sympathy in the written form

If you’re writing a letter, there are formal and informal ways to show your condolences for someone’s loss in French.

Let’s take a look at some of the formal ways to express condolences in French, in writing.

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Formal condolences in French in writing

When offering formal condolences in French, in writing, you should always use the vous form and not the tu form of the word ‘you’.

Take a look at the examples below:

Listen to audio

Je vous prie d’accepter mes sincères regrets et ma sympathie à l’occasion du décès de votre proche.

I ask that you please accept my sincere regret and sympathies at the passing of your loved one.
Listen to audio

Je comprends votre douleur et vous offre mon soutien et mes sincères condoléances.

I understand your pain and offer my support and sincere sympathies to you.
Listen to audio

Veuillez accepter nos plus profondes tristesses et sympathies en ce moment difficile.

Please accept our deepest sorrows and sympathies at this difficult moment.
Listen to audio

Nous sommes profondément désolés d’apprendre le décès de votre proche. Veuillez accepter nos condoléances.

We are deeply sorry to hear that your loved one has died. Please accept our condolences.

Informal condolences in French in writing

For informal condolences in French, in writing, you can use the tu form of the word ‘you’.

The tu form is used to address people you are familiar with.

Take a look at the examples below:

Listen to audio

I was very sorry to hear about their death. My heart is with you. They will always be in our hearts.

J'ai été vraiment désolé d'apprendre leur mort. Je suis de tout cœur avec toi. Ils seront toujours dans nos coeurs.
Listen to audio

Ils nous manqueront et on se souviendra d’eux. Je suis vraiment désolé.

They will be missed and remembered. I am very sorry.
Listen to audio

Nous pensons à toi et à la familie maintenant en ce moment. Nous sommes vraiment désolés.

We are thinking of you and the family now in this moment. We are very sorry.

Using the phrase en deuil to describe someone’s grief

As mentioned, the phrase en deuil is used to describe someone’s grief.

Whereas in English we might say ‘I was grieving’, in French we use this en deuil.

Though you might be tempted to use le gérondif (the gerund) like we do in English, we would say en deuil instead.

Here’s an example dialogue that features this phrase:

Listen to audio

Ma mère est décédée la nuit dernière. Elle n’avait que soixante ans.

My mum passed away last night. She was only sixty years old.
Listen to audio

Je suis vraiment désolée. Mes plus sincères condoléances.

I'm very sorry. My deepest condolences.
Listen to audio

Je suis en deuil. Je suis vraiment triste.

I am grieving. I'm really sad.
Listen to audio

Je pense à toi en ce moment difficile.

I am thinking of you at this difficult time.

Whereas le gérondif is used for some actions in French, le deuil doesn’t take the gerund form.

If you wanted to say ‘they need to grieve’, the phrase le deuil is normally combined with the French verb faire (to do or make):

Listen to audio

Ils ont besoin de temps pour faire le deuil.

They need time to grieve.

If you want to say ‘I am grieving’ like in the example above, you would say en deuil.

Using a French translation app for this word would give you ‘in mourning’ or ‘grieving’.

You can also say se mettre en deuil which means ‘to put oneself into mourning’.

Express your condolences and share your sympathy in French

You may get anxious about expressing sympathies - especially in a language that’s not your mother tongue.

It’s still important to show that you care, regardless of your fluency level.

Hopefully this guide will help you express your condolences in French if you ever find yourself in a situation where it’s needed.


Do you have any other phrases for expressing condolences in French?

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Donovan Nagel
Donovan Nagel - B. Th, MA AppLing
I'm an Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator with a passion for language learning (especially Arabic).
Currently learning: Greek
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