When friends, family, or other people in our lives suffer a significant loss, we use certain phrases to offer our condolences and express feelings of shared sorrow. In English, we add superlative adjectives to these phrases to emphasize the degree of our feelings. With so many different sayings to choose from, is it correct to say, “deepest sympathy”?
Yes, it’s correct to say “deepest sympathy.” It’s one of many ways to offer condolences for someone’s loss, especially when that person is feeling a lot of grief and sadness over their loss. It’s how we offer our emotional support and show others we care about them.
Today’s article will explore what “deepest sympathy” means and how to use it appropriately. We will also cover some different ways of offering condolences and tell you which expressions you should and shouldn’t use. We’ll start by dissecting the phrase “deepest sympathy.”
What Does a “Deepest Sympathy” Mean?
In this section, we will explain what sympathy is. The word is not always associated with death. That’s why it’s important to learn about sympathy before you try to understand our full phrase, “deepest sympathy.”
The Meaning of Sympathy
Sympathy is a feeling or emotional state. However, it’s not as straightforward as feeling angry or excited. Sympathy is more three-dimensional because there are many different feelings wrapped up in sympathy (source).
Generally, sympathy comes after someone has experienced loss, misfortune, or injustice. Negative events are very powerful, and they elicit a strong emotional response from others. During times of trouble, people offer their emotional support and understanding.
The catalyst for causing sympathy is our connections to other people.
Feeling sympathetic means you understand, to a degree, what another person is thinking, feeling, or going through. Their emotions, thoughts, or ideas affect you in a familiar way.
When you experience sympathy, you might feel sad, sorry, and upset.
For example, if your friend’s dog dies, you might feel:
- Sad that the dog is gone
- Sorry that your friend no longer has their companion
- Upset because life isn’t fair and pets have to die
This is sympathy: your dog didn’t die, and you didn’t lose your companion; however, your friend with whom you share a connection lost something very special to them. You know how much they loved their dog, so you can imagine how horrible they feel.
You can also feel sympathy towards a group or a cause you identify with. When this is the case, you might feel unified, loyal, and supportive.
For example: If you favor one political party over another, you might feel:
- Unified with other citizens who have similar viewpoints
- Loyal to the political party you choose to be a part of
- Supportive of the politicians who act on behalf of your party
Now, let’s move on to exploring the word “deepest” in the phrase “deepest sympathy.”
Deepest: A Superlative Adjective
Superlative adjectives are different from normal adjectives. This section will briefly review what a superlative adjective is.
What Is a Superlative Adjective?
As a reminder, regular adjectives describe nouns (source).
For example, you might say, “The ocean is deep.” In this sentence, “deep” is our adjective. It describes our noun, the “ocean.”
Superlative adjectives are special because we use them to describe something to its highest degree when comparing three or more things.
Now, that was a mouthful, so let’s break it down.
The very meaning of “superlative” as an adjective is “best,” “excellent,” “highest.” So, a “superlative adjective” is an adjective that describes something to its highest degree. Therefore, it goes beyond a normal description.
If you’re still confused, don’t worry. First, let’s go over an example to see superlative adjectives in action.
Making Adjectives Superlative
If we look at the normal adjective, “deep,” it has three degrees:
The last is the superlative adjective, as it’s the highest degree of “deep.”
In a sentence, we use the superlative adjective “deepest” to say, “This is the deepest ocean in the world.”
In this sentence, “deepest” is our superlative adjective, and “ocean” is the noun it describes.
To modify normal adjectives into superlative adjectives, you need to remember a few tricks (source):
Most of the time, you’ll add -est to the end of your adjectives to make them superlative adjectives.
|long + est = longest||great + est = greatest||new + est = newest|
If your adjective ends with “y,” you might need to drop the “y” and add “iest.”
|heavy – y + iest = heaviest||crazy – y + iest = craziest||pretty – y + iest = prettiest|
However, we cannot modify adjectives with three or more syllables at the end. When this is the case, add the word “least” or “most” before the adjective to make it superlative.
|beautiful = most beautiful or least beautiful||upset = most upset or least upset|
There are exceptions to these rules, but many of the adjectives you encounter in English will follow one of these three patterns.
For additional lessons focused on superlative adjectives, read, “Is It Correct to Say ‘Happiest Birthday’”?
Is It Grammatically Correct to Say, “Deepest Sympathy”?
It is grammatically correct to use “deepest sympathy,” so let’s explore how to use it in a sentence properly.
How Do You Use “Deepest Sympathy”?
If someone you love suffers a major loss, and you want to express how sorry you feel for them, you can say, “I would like to express my deepest sympathy for the loss of your dog.”
“Deepest” is our superlative adjective in that sentence, and “sympathy” is the noun it describes.
By saying “deepest” sympathy, you convey that you’ve reached the highest possible degree of sympathy.
It’s important to note that when we say “deepest,” we aren’t referencing physical depth, like the ocean’s depth. We also aren’t using “deep” in the context of wealth, like when someone has “deep pockets.”
We are using it to express that our heart aches for them in a profound way. For more instruction on the correct usage of superlatives, read “Furthest or Farthest: Understanding Differences in Usage.”
Now, let’s see when it’s appropriate and inappropriate to use this expression.
When Can You Use “Deepest Sympathy”?
We already know that you should use this phrase during a time of great loss or grief. However, is there a specific time we should use this phrase? And, is it appropriate to say to someone in person, over the phone, or in an email?
In What Context Can You Use “Deepest Sympathy”?
In English, this is a very common expression. However, we use it almost exclusively in the event of death, which can be the death of a person or a pet.
Technically, you can say it to someone in person. However, nowadays, people don’t usually use the expression in conversational English since it usually sounds too formal to say aloud.
The exception to this would be at a funeral, burial, or viewing service. These are formal events, where people are generally dressed up and exhibit very respectful, proper behavior.
We’ll go over other phrases that you might say to someone in person a little later in the lesson.
You will often see “deepest sympathy” written as an added sentiment in a card. In fact, if you go into any card shop, you’ll see a section marked “sympathy cards.” This is because a whole section of the greeting card industry revolves around creating heartfelt sentiments of sympathy.
You will also see “deepest sympathy” written in a letter, an email, or on a note accompanying a bouquet of flowers.
Using “Deepest Sympathy” in a Full Sentence
In a card, when using “deepest sympathy” in a full sentence, you might handwrite something like, “Dearest friend, you and your family have my deepest sympathy for the loss of your mother.”
This sentence emphasizes your relationship, addresses the suffering party, and offers respectful condolences for the loved one they lost.
Sometimes, the card you pick out has lovely words in it, and you don’t need to add much more to it. In this instance, go to the bottom of the card and shorten the expression to “With deepest sympathy,” followed by your name.
This is a nice way to add a personal touch to your signature. Even if the card is really nice, you should always sign it so it doesn’t look like you just picked a random card off the shelf and put it straight into the envelope.
When Not to Use a “Deepest Sympathy”
We don’t use “deepest sympathy” during normal, everyday conversation. Instead, we reserve it for instances of misfortune and great loss.
You don’t use the expression when your friend loses their pencil. Instead, you should reserve an intense emotional sentiment like “deepest sympathy” for the appropriate settings.
Losing a loved one is very serious and life-altering. It’s also hard to put into words the way we feel when someone close to us suffers such grief and sadness. We want to show them just how much we care, but we don’t want to overtalk or steep them in their grief.
By saving expressions like “deepest sympathy” for the appropriate circumstances, the words carry their weight.
What Can You Use Instead of “Deepest Sympathy”?
You might be asking yourself, “Are there other ways to show you care besides saying, ‘deepest sympathy’?” The answer is yes. In fact, there are numerous ways to express sorrow for someone’s loss. Let’s look at a few alternatives.
Can You Say “Deepest Sympathies”?
We’ll start with an easy one. “Sympathies” is the plural form of “sympathy.” Using the plural form in a sentence is still acceptable, and it means the same thing as our original expression.
You might be inclined to say “sympathies” instead of sympathy if it rolls off the tongue easier or if you’re offering condolences on behalf of your whole family.
Can You Say “My Sympathies”?
We learned how to use superlative adjectives to express sympathy. However, do you have to use superlative adjectives to offer condolences to someone? No, you don’t always have to use superlative adjectives.
For example, it’s appropriate to say “my sympathies” in a letter or in person. It conveys a very similar message to “deepest sympathies,” just without the superlative description.
We tend to use this phrase more with people we’re acquainted with. We use it less with people we’re close with. It’s not shallow, but it is less impactful than other phrases.
Condolences Not Including “Sympathy”
Some other common expressions we use in English to offer condolences in the event of a loss or death are:
- My sincere condolences
- I am very sorry for your loss.
- I’m sending my love to you and your family.
- You and your family are in my thoughts.
Are Sympathies and Condolences the Same Thing?
Although very similar, sympathies and condolences are not exactly the same.
In the context of death, we can use them interchangeably, but we do not always associate sympathy with death.
Sympathy is a broad state of emotion. As we learned earlier, you can feel sympathy towards anything or anyone you relate to or have an interest in.
Using our earlier example of siding with one political party over another, you might say, “My sympathies lie with political party A.”
However, you normally wouldn’t say, “My condolences lie with political party B.” Why not? Read on to find out.
Condolences are expressions of sympathy, compassion, or sadness, especially in the context of death (source). You will almost exclusively offer people condolences when their friend or family member passes away (source).
You can quite literally say, “My sincere condolences to you and your family.” That means the same thing as, “I am very sorry for your loss,” or, “My deepest sympathies to you and your family.”
Technically, you can use condolences outside of the pretense of someone dying, but not often. And, it would most likely be in a playful, joking manner.
For example, when a team loses a much-anticipated sports game against a hated rival, the players can become consumed with frustration and grief. If an athlete keeps dwelling on the loss long after it happens, a friend might say, at an appropriate time, “My condolences for your loss.”
It’s intended as a joke to lighten the mood. Sometimes, athletes get so consumed by a big loss that they forget it’s just a game, and their friends remind them that there is more to life. This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
Again, though, condolences are almost exclusively reserved for instances of death.
As you’ve now learned, it is correct to say, “deepest sympathy.” Although the term “sympathy” itself does not always apply to circumstances surrounding death, it is implied when combined with the superlative adjective, “deepest.” It’s meant to be a heartfelt sentiment to show your sorrow and understanding of someone else’s loss.
You’ve also learned that “deepest sympathy” is mostly expressed through written cards, notes, or emails and that it’s not the only way to offer your condolences to someone.
When you find yourself in a situation where you’re questioning whether to offer condolences, know that it’s always respectful to show someone that you are thinking of them during their time of loss. People need to be supported during periods of grief, and every bit of support helps.