How to Say “What a Shame”: Guide to Formal and Informal Expressions

Giving voice to our emotions is an essential part of effective communication. While expressing disappointment, sadness, or regret, we often use the phrase “What a shame” to convey our sentiments. However, language is rich and versatile, and there are numerous ways to express the concept of “what a shame” in both formal and informal settings. In this guide, we will explore various expressions, offer tips, examples, and highlight regional variations where relevant. Let’s dive in!

Formal Expressions for “What a Shame”

Formal language typically reflects a more composed and professional tone. Use these expressions in formal settings, such as business meetings, academic environments, or when conversing with individuals you do not know well.

1. What a pity

A classic phrase that elegantly communicates regret or disappointment is “What a pity.” This expression is widely recognized in formal English and conveys a respectful tone. For example:

“What a pity that we couldn’t finalize the deal. We had high hopes for this collaboration.”

2. It is regrettable

When discussing unfortunate circumstances, using “It is regrettable” provides a more formal alternative to “What a shame.” This expression is commonly used in professional environments to address negative situations appropriately. For instance:

“It is regrettable that the conference had to be canceled due to unforeseen circumstances. We apologize for any inconvenience caused.”

3. It is unfortunate

“It is unfortunate” is another formal expression frequently used to convey sympathy or sadness regarding an unfavorable event. It is a respectful way to express disappointment while maintaining a professional tone. Consider this example:

“It is unfortunate that we were unable to secure additional funding for the project. We will need to reassess our budget and timeline.”

Informal Expressions for “What a Shame”

Informal language allows for a more relaxed and casual tone. Use these expressions in conversations with friends, family, or close acquaintances when you want to express empathy or disappointment in a less serious manner.

1. What a bummer

“What a bummer” is a popular informal phrase that captures a sense of disappointment. It is commonly used among friends or peers in casual settings. Here’s an example:

“You can’t make it to the party tonight? What a bummer! We were really looking forward to seeing you.”

2. That sucks

When discussing unfortunate events casually, “That sucks” is a widely used expression. It conveys disappointment or frustration in an informal and straightforward way. For instance:

“You lost your wallet? That sucks! I hope you didn’t have anything too important inside.”

3. What a drag

“What a drag” is another informal expression often used to describe disappointing or unfortunate situations. It conveys a sense of weariness or annoyance in a casual manner. Check out this example:

“It’s raining again, and we can’t have our picnic. What a drag! Let’s find an indoor activity instead.”

Tips for Expressing “What a Shame” more effectively

Here are a few tips to help you express the sentiment of “what a shame” more effectively:

1. Non-verbal cues

Accompanying your words with appropriate non-verbal cues, such as a sympathetic expression or a gentle shake of the head, can enhance the depth of your communication, conveying your genuine empathy.

2. Tone of voice

Adjusting your tone to match the situation can further emphasize your feelings. A soft and gentle tone is often more appropriate for conveying sympathy, while a deeper or more assertive tone may be suitable for expressing frustration.

3. Contextualize the situation

Providing some context or additional details when expressing “what a shame” can help others understand your perspective more clearly. This can lead to a deeper connection and possibly finding ways to overcome the disappointment together.

Regional Variations

The English language varies across regions, and specific expressions may have different levels of familiarity or acceptance depending on where you are. However, since “what a shame” is a widely recognized phrase in English, it retains its meaning across most English-speaking regions without significant variations.


When it comes to expressing disappointment or regret, having a variety of phrases at your disposal allows you to tailor your communication to the specific context and audience. In formal settings, “What a pity,” “It is regrettable,” and “It is unfortunate” are excellent choices. In more casual situations, “What a bummer,” “That sucks,” and “What a drag” work well. Remember to consider non-verbal cues, tone of voice, and the context of the situation to effectively convey your emotions. Now, go forth and express your sentiments with empathy, warmth, and a touch of creativity!

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