Recently, my good friend from Argentina experienced a death in the family, and I wanted to send a message of sympathy via email. It reminded me of the importance of learning appropriate Spanish for this type of event. If you are just beginning to learn Spanish you should prepare yourself now, because you will probably come to a time when you will need to send your condolences in Spanish. Your native Spanish-speaking friend will appreciate your efforts to communicate in Spanish at such a difficult time. Here are some ways to send personal expressions of sympathy in Spanish.
While native Spanish speakers will say that it always depends upon the particular situation, nevertheless, these phrases are ones used often. If you are speaking, your tone of voice and facial expression will go far to indicate the sincerity of your feelings. If you are writing, then these phrases are common enough that everyone will understand what you mean and appreciate your expression of sympathy.
To start, the basic idea of offering sympathy, or more specifically “giving the condolence” is expressed in the word “pesame”.
The idea of sympathy may be expressed in words such as “compasion”, “simpatia”, or “lastima”, though lastima sometimes is also used for times less serious than the death of a loved one.
If you need help sending a card or letter to someone, you can ask for help referring to a letter of condolence by requesting a “carta de condolencia”. This will help you if you are shopping for an appropriate card, or you need someone to help you write a message of sympathy.
When faced with greeting a family member or close friend of the deceased, you may simply say “Mis condolencias.” This is translated exactly as “My condolences.” This type of simple greeting is helpful, for example, at a funeral, viewing, mass, or other type of religious service where you need to say something, but you may not truly know the family well. It is also helpful when a large group surrounds the family members, and there is some need for a brief, momentary greeting so as not to fatigue the mourners.
If you wish to say more, you use the often spoken “Mi mas sentido pesame” which is very close to “My most sincere sympathies”. And alternative to this phrase would be “Lo siento mucho por su perdida” which means, “I am so sorry for your loss”. Either one of these phrases is formal enough to use at any occasion, yet convey a truly heartfelt express of sympathy to the listener.
If you learn these Spanish basics, you will be well prepared for the uncomfortable time when you will need to use these specific Spanish phrases.