What to say in English when someone dies

Graveyard

Knowing what to say when someone dies is difficult, for native English speakers as well as for learners. You may have strong emotions when someone has died, but you also have to think about how other people feel about it. So there are lots of things to take into consideration.

What to say when you find out that someone has died

First, what would you say if you heard that someone famous has died? You might not believe that it's true, so you might say:

What? Are you serious?

I can't believe it.

Now imagine that someone has died who you knew, but who you weren't very close to. You hear about it from someone else who also wasn't very close to this person:

A: Hey, did you hear about Sonny Green?

B: What about him?

A: Well, he passed away.

B: Oh, that's horrible!

Other things that you might say in this situation:

That's too bad.

Oh, that's terrible news.

But if the person that you hear the news from is a close friend or family member of the deceased (the person who died), you should show more emotion like this:

Oh my God, I'm so sorry.

Oh, no. No. She's gone? I can't believe it.

Talking about the death politely

You have to be careful to be polite when talking about death. For example, people sometimes try to avoid using the words "die" or "dead":

Nancy is no longer with us.

I'm sorry, Mrs. Fujimura, but your husband has passed away.

It's not necessary to avoid these words when talking about the death of someone who's not close to the people you're talking to. For example, you can talk about the death of someone famous like this:

How did he die?

There are other polite expressions that you can use:

She's moved on.

He's left us.

When did she pass?

There are also lots of other creative ways to talk about someone dying that are not as polite. You can use those to talk about your own future death, or the death of a character on TV, but avoid them when someone has just died in real life:

He finally kicked the bucket.

She bit the dust.

Showing your support to friends and family members

When you talk to the family of the deceased, or their close friends, you should show that you care about them and support them:

How are you holding up?

This means both "How are you doing?" and "Are you OK?"

I'm here for you.

If there's anything I can do, please ask.

Both of these phrases mean that you'll help them and listen to them.

I can't imagine what you're going through right now.

This means that you think that this person feels very sad right now.

Writing to someone whose friend or family member has died

When you write to someone whose friend or family member has died, you usually write a little more formally.

I'm so sorry for your loss.

She will be truly missed.

Please accept our deepest condolences for your loss.

Things that religious people say about someone's death

People who are religious sometimes say things like this when someone dies:

She's gone on to a better place.

This means that the person who's died is now in heaven. Other things that religious people might say include:

He's with God now.

You and your family are in my prayers. 

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