6 Words to Tell Others You Are Sad in Chinese

Follow our previous post on happiness, we’re looking at a range of Chinese words to tell others you are sad.

An old man crying
From Behind My Blue Eyes. Deviant Art

Here are six listed in approximate order, from grief down to sentimental melancholy:

1.痛心 / tòngxīn
Literally “ache/pain + heart”
痛心 is commonly used when referring to anguish, grief and regret. Used following tragic or terrible events. Examples:


Zhè jiā rén duì tāmen de sǔnshī gǎndào tòngxīn.

The family was feeling deep sorrow for their loss.

Wǒmen dōu hé nǐ yíyàng tòngxīn.

We all share your great sadness.

2. 悲伤 / bēishāng
Literally “sad + hurt”
On a scale from 1-10, 痛心 is 9, whereas 悲伤 would be less severe, about 6 or 7. 悲伤 describes when we are deeply sad, perhaps about loss of family or friend, or when lamenting about the past. Examples:

Wǒ cóngwèi tīngshuō guò rúcǐ bēishāng de shì le.

I’ve never heard of such a sad/sorrowful thing.

3. 伤心 / shāngxīn
Literally “injured + heart”
伤心 is the heartbreak we feel when a long relationship ends or even when a loved one passes; it describes hurt and sorrow, but slightly less severe than 悲伤. Examples:

Ta shífēn shāngxīn

He’s totally heartbroken.

Zhège xiāoxi ràng tāmen hěn shāngxīn.

They were broken-up by the news.

A sad figure made of paper
From Sergiocarlos

4. 难过 / nánguò
Literally “difficult to get through”
难过 relates to emotional upset rather than full-on distress or heartbreak like the 3 above. It’s used when we feel miserable or emotionally uncomfortable about something. Examples:

Zuì nánguò de rìzi yě yǒu jìntóu.

Even the most difficult days have a limit (idiom)

Wǒ wèi tā gándào nánguò

I feel sorry for him.

5. 难受 / nánshòu
Literally “difficult to accept/handle”
难受 is used interchangeably with 难过. It can also refer to physical discomforts, such as illness or even wearing shoes that are really tight. Examples:

Wǒ shēngbìng le, hěn nánshòu!

I’m sick, I feel lousy!

Nánshòu sǐ le!

So painful/uncomfortable! (literally: uncomfortable to death)

6. 伤感 / shāng’gǎn
Literally “wounded +moved/touched”
This is an emotional, sentimental sadness or melancholy. 伤感 could be used about saying goodbye or reflecting in past times. Soppy, sentimental songs, poems or movies can be described as very 伤感. Examples:

Tā búshèng shānggǎn.

He is overcome by melancholy.

A! nǐ bié shānggǎn le!

Ah, don’t be sentimental!

So there we have it. Six words of varying degrees of sadness and pain: 痛心, 悲伤, 伤心, 难过, 难受, 伤感.

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