6 Modern Ways To Say “It’s A Pity” (Meaning Explained)

We might use “it’s a pity” to apologize to someone for not knowing something. Or at least, we might have used it a few decades ago. Nowadays, it’s a little old-fashioned. That’s why this article will share the best modern synonyms for “it’s a pity” we can use.

What Are The Modern Alternatives To “It’s A Pity”?

There are plenty of options we can use in place of “it’s a pity.” However, the best ones that we want to focus on include:

  • It’s a shame
  • Sorry about that
  • I’m sorry
  • I’m afraid
  • Unfortunately
  • Sadly
it is a pity

The preferred version is “it’s a shame” for more formal cases and “sorry about that” for informal cases. Both are great ways to show that we’re sorry about something we usually don’t have much responsibility for. If we don’t know something or can’t control something, we may use them.

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It’s A Shame

Let’s start with the more formal preferred option and work down from there. You’ll find a lot of places where “it’s a shame” works well.

We can use “it’s a shame” similarly to “it’s a pity.” “Shame” and “pity” are synonymous in this phrase, where we want to show somebody that we understand their sadness or frustration, and we want to apologize for it.

Often, using a phrase like “it’s a shame” is a way to apologize for something that wasn’t our fault. You might find yourself doing it to apologize for something like the weather (which nobody has control over).

It’s a very polite phrase that many people use, and it often makes the person we’re talking to feel slightly better. It works to show that we understand why they are sad, and we want to offer them as much support as possible.

Sometimes, the fault might belong to somebody else. We might want to draw attention to that by using a phrase like “that’s a shame.” It’s passive-aggressive when said in this way, and it shows that we are disappointed that somebody didn’t do something for us.

Here’s how we can use it with a few examples:

  • It’s a shame you weren’t there to help us with the decorations.
  • It’s a shame about the rain. I wish we could have spent more time here.
  • It’s a shame I couldn’t make it in to watch you play, though I’ve heard you were excellent.
  • I can’t find a way to get you that ticket. It’s a shame, but I tried my best.

Sorry About That

The other preferred version is “sorry about that.” It’s on par with “it’s a shame,” but it’s definitely the more informal version we can use.

“Sorry about that” works to apologize for something beyond our control or something that we know we had some part in. We don’t always need a pronoun (like “I’m”) when we use this phrase because it’s informal, and it doesn’t need all the standard English rules.

It’s a great way to make an apology seem a little less formal. When we’re in more informal situations, sometimes a “sorry” or genuine apology might come across as a bit too strong.

Therefore, “sorry about that” is a great way to take some of the edge off. Most people are happy to hear it because it shows that we are somewhat apologetic about whatever happened, even if we had something to do with whatever went wrong.

You may be able to use the phrase as follows:

  • I don’t know the answer to that question; sorry about that.
  • Sorry about that, but it appears there isn’t much else we can do for you now.
  • I’m sorry about that, and if there’s anything else I can do, please do not hesitate to ask me.
  • Oh, sorry about that. I didn’t realize you needed my help because nobody asked me.

I’m Sorry

Sometimes, it’s best to go back to the basics. There is nothing wrong with saying “I’m sorry,” and it’s a great replacement for “It’s a pity” in most cases.

“I’m sorry” works when we want to sincerely apologize. Again, we do not have to be directly responsible for the thing we apologize for. As long as we acknowledge the frustration of another person, “I’m sorry” can work well.

To illustrate our point, imagine you’re working in a store. Now imagine a customer comes in and asks for a product you no longer have in stock.

Well, we might say “I’m sorry” before telling them that the product is out of stock. However, it wasn’t our fault all the previous stock was bought. It wasn’t our fault that they couldn’t get their item.

That’s how it works to say “I’m sorry” or any of the other synonyms in this list when we aren’t strictly to blame for what we apologize for. It’s just a way to show empathy for the person.

The simpler phrase looks good in the following cases:

  • I’m sorry the weather didn’t hold up for your plans. If only it could have stayed sunny.
  • I’m sorry things didn’t go the way you expected them to. That’s always the way these days.
  • I’m sorry I couldn’t be there to look after you. I wish there was some other way to do this.
  • I’m sorry you didn’t find what you were looking for. Though, I hope you can find a little bit of respite somewhere.

I’m Afraid

“I’m afraid” works similar to “I’m sorry,” but it doesn’t use “sorry” as an obvious apology word. “I’m afraid” shows that we tried everything we could to get them the result they wanted, but we still didn’t manage to do it.

The idea is to use “afraid” with the intended meaning. It means “scared,” and we want to show the person that we’re scared to deliver the bad news to them and that we wish there was something else we could have done to help.

“Afraid” and “sorry” are often interchangeable in these phrases, and we can see that in the following:

  • I’m afraid these products are no longer for sale, but I can recommend one of these similar products.
  • I’m afraid I do not understand what you mean. Could you clarify?
  • I’m afraid I do not have the answer to that question. I wish there was something else I could say.
  • I don’t know what to do for you, I’m afraid. You’ll have to ask somebody else.


“Unfortunately” is another great way to show that we are saddened by delivering bad news to someone. While it’s not an outright apology, we can at least use it to show that we understand the sadness or frustration the situation might cause for somebody.

It is an adverb, so it’s not a phrase like some of the others on this list. Still, it’s a great choice for us in most cases when we want to briefly show empathy rather than outright apologize.

The one-word response “unfortunately” is a great way to show we are sorry for something, as you can see below:

  • Unfortunately, it was raining when you went to the beach; otherwise, you could have had a great day.
  • I don’t know what you want from me, unfortunately.
  • Unfortunately, I haven’t got a clue what you’re talking about. I won’t be of much help.
  • Unfortunately, I’ve told you all I know. You’ll have to ask somebody else if you need more.


“Sadly” is another adverb we can use that’s synonymous with “unfortunately.” It again shows that we are sad or upset about the problem we might have caused someone (even if we aren’t actually). It’s just a way to show that we appreciate their issue, and have done all we can.

Here’s how “sadly” works:

  • This is all I have with me, sadly. I’m sorry I couldn’t be of more help.
  • This is all I know about the situation, sadly.
  • Sadly, I haven’t got the time to help you out with this problem today.
  • Sadly, I haven’t found anyone who is willing to help me with my predicament.

What Does “It’s A Pity” Mean?

Now that we’ve covered all the best modern alternatives, it’s time to quickly look at the meaning of the original phrase. That will help you to understand a little more about each of the synonyms too.

“It’s a pity” means that we’re sorry about something we might have done wrong or that we empathize with somebody’s pain. We can use it whenever we want to show that we also feel sad or uncertain about something.

“Pity” is a fairly uncommon word today. It’s not often that you’ll hear people using it. In the most likely case, we might hear it as in the exclamation “for pity’s sake.”

However, “it’s a pity” was always intended to apologize for something that you usually don’t have direct responsibility for. It’s seen as a very polite way to say “sorry” for something, as many of the other synonyms we listed above.

  • It’s a pity that you weren’t able to make it to watch my show.
  • The plane has already left the airport. It’s a pity you didn’t manage to board it!
  • It’s a pity the rain halted our date when it did.