We’ve all heard that nothing is certain except death and taxes. Yet, despite death being inevitable, talking about it is still tricky, especially when you’re conversing with someone in mourning. When such a moment arises, is it correct to say, “Accept my condolences”?
“Accept my condolences” is a common expression of sympathy. The phrase does not generally stand on its own, however. You will usually preface it with “please” or follow it with a reason for offering your condolences. You may hesitate to use this phrase, looking for something more personal, but it is correct and acceptable.
If you’re looking to offer your condolences to someone and want to learn more ways to communicate sympathy, keep reading.
Why Do People Say, “Please Accept My Condolences”?
People use “Please accept my condolences” to show sympathy for someone whose family or friend has passed away. We would add “please” before the request to make it more polite and indicate a request rather than a demand (source).
Understanding the Meaning of “Accept My Condolences”
We have established that the phrase “accept my condolences” shows sympathy or compassion to a grieving person. Therefore, you can begin to understand its meaning based on the words that comprise it.
The first word, “accept,” is a verb that refers to agreeing to something or finding it satisfactory. Think of sentences like the two below.
- He could not accept the truth.
- I accepted his invitation.
“Accept” indicates that you’re presenting your request to someone to receive willingly rather than commanding them.
The second word, “my,” is a first-person possessive pronoun that we use to indicate something belongs to us:
- It was my idea.
- It was my turn to take our dog, Rover, for a walk.
In the context of this article, the “condolences” belong to you or are from you — thus, “my” modifies the noun “condolences.”
If you need a quick refresher on pronouns, look at the article “You and I or You and Me: Understanding the Correct Use of These Pronouns.”
“Condolences” is the plural form of the noun “condolence.” A “condolence” is an expression of sympathy that you can use to comfort the listener. You will generally use it when referring to death. However, you can use it in other contexts, too. Take a look at the sentences below.
- We bought a condolence gift for Sam, who was stuck home with the flu.
- When my grandma died, we received many condolences.
Before we move on, there is one note to point out regarding the word “accept.” You’ll want to note that it is different from a similar-sounding word, “except.”
Understanding the Difference Between Accept vs. Except
Sometimes, especially when writing, you might know a word purely from sound and not from spelling, which can cause confusion.
One example of such a case is the verb “accept” and the preposition “except.” These two words are homophones, meaning that they sound identical when we say them aloud (source). The words, however, do not have the same meanings.
The verb “accept” means to agree to, approve of, or consider tolerable.
- My mom told me to accept the money.
- “I accept!” she yelled as soon as she saw the diamond ring.
- I was never one to accept defeat.
In contrast, the preposition “except” is synonymous with excluding or not including.
- No one knew except my sister.
- James was brilliant, except he tended to let his emotions get the best of him.
- My mom paid for everything, except the wedding dress.
So when you’re sending out condolences, make sure you have written out “accept” and not “except.”
Condolence vs. Condolences
Condolences may be the plural form of condolence, but the condition is slightly different (source). You would use “condolence” indirectly when referring to a shared sorrow over a loss of life.
At times, you can also use the word “condolence” as a modifier (source). In writing, you can use a modifier to change the meaning of a noun or verb. When writing “condolence” as a modifier, you’ll typically add a noun that follows the word, such as a condolence gift or a condolence letter.
- I sent a condolence letter to the family.
- Our visit of condolence was the only kind gesture we could offer.
The plural word “condolences” is slightly different because you can use it for various forms of sympathy, and its meaning is more general than specific. Below are two examples.
- After his illness, they offered many condolences.
- She told me Principal Ruth was her grandmother; I offered my condolences.
When offering your condolences, you choose either the singular or plural form, depending on the structure of your sentence. However, the plural form is more common (source).
The word also shares a similar meaning to kind regards, greetings, and best wishes — however, we generally do not use these terms with reference to the loss of life.
Writing the Phrase “Accept My Condolences”
As we previously mentioned, “accept my condolences” cannot stand on its own. The phrase must have something else before or after it to function properly. The most common word is “please.”
- Please accept my condolences.
- Accept my condolences, please.
You can also follow the phrase with more information about who or why you’re offering condolences.
- Accept my condolences to you and your family.
- Accept our condolences for your loss.
You can also combine both the term “please” as well as additional information or reasoning.
- Please accept my condolences for your loss.
- Please accept my condolences during this difficult time.
Remember, no matter how you send your condolences, the message conveys your sorrow at another’s loss and lets them know you’re sharing your sympathy and care.
How Do You Respond When Someone Says, “My Condolences?”
Talking about death is difficult. As many of us know, experiencing the death of a loved one is even worse. If you are concerned about how exactly to respond to another’s message of condolences, don’t.
If someone asks you to accept their condolences, they are trying to comfort you and offer support. How you respond is of little matter, given those sharing their condolences are aware that you are going through a hard time.
A quick response such as “thank you” is perfectly acceptable. You may, however, wish to elaborate in your response. In that case, you can say, “Thank you” and add any of the following phrases:
- for your kindness
- for your sympathy
- for your support
- for your prayers
- for your message
- for reaching out
You may also share memories and continue into a full conversation. Just remember, it’s your comfort that is important.
How Else Can You Give Condolences?
Some wish to refrain from using this exact phrase, “accept my condolences.” The saying can sometimes feel overused or even too wordy. There are other ways for you to express your condolences, though. Below, you’ll find just a few more expressions that you can choose from.
I’m Sorry for Your Loss
“I’m sorry for your loss” is another common, synonymous saying that you can substitute.
In this situation, you aren’t using the word “sorry” to express regret, as you would when telling your teacher, “I’m sorry I didn’t do my homework” or telling your sister, “I’m sorry, I ate the last slice of cake,” for example.
Here, the term “sorry” shows a general feeling of sadness or grief over a situation that has taken place.
The “loss” describes the situation that occurred. In this case, “loss” is a reference specifically to death, so if someone loses their pen, it’s best not to say, “sorry for your loss,” unless you mean to use it sarcastically.
My Condolences to You and Your Family
Another way to give condolences is to say, “My condolences to you and your family.” This can be more useful than “accept my condolences” because, rather than offering condolences to a single person, the phrase shows that you sympathize with the family as a whole.
They’re in a Better Place
You may use the phrase “They’re in a better place” when comforting people from religious or spiritual homes. It’s a well-known fact that people from the Abrahamic faiths and other religions believe this life is the first step in a longer journey.
However, this one may be best to avoid, especially if you are uncertain of the religious background of the person or family. While this phrase can certainly provide comfort to someone, it can also aggravate grief. And, you don’t want to assume another’s belief in any sort of afterlife.
Therefore, unless you know the grieving person well, just remember to tread with caution and perhaps choose another way to communicate your sympathy.
My Deepest Condolences
“My deepest condolences” has the same meaning as “my condolences.” The only difference is the word “deepest” stresses your level of sympathy and care. Take a look at the difference below:
- The company sends its condolences to the chairman’s widow.
- The company sends its deepest condolences to the chairman’s widow.
“Deepest” is not the only word you can attach to “condolences.” Words like sincere and heartfelt play the same role.
- The company sends its sincerest condolences to the chairman’s widow.
- The company sends its heartfelt condolences to the chairman’s widow.
The word “heartfelt” is similar to sincere as it conveys that your feelings are genuine.
Is It With Deepest Condolence or Condolences?
In the context of “offering condolences,” both condolences and condolence are generally interchangeable. The only difference is how and where you use these terms in your sentence.
Writing “with deepest condolence” or “with deepest condolences” are each correct, but the context plays a role in determining which phrase you should choose. For example, if you are following the term with a noun, as we stated earlier, you will want to use the singular form.
You are more likely to encounter “with deepest condolences” (the plural form) because it is the more common phrase and offers sympathy in a generalized way. However, to say “deepest condolence” is grammatically correct as well. Take a look at two examples below.
- My deepest condolences are with his family after their loss.
- My deepest condolence is with his family after their loss.
Just pay attention to the linking verbs, as you may need to change the sentence to ensure that it is grammatically correct. You should always use “are” with the plural form and “is” with the singular form.
You may also write “with deepest condolence” or “with deepest condolences” to sign off a message.
Thoughts and Prayers Are With You
Many believe that prayer is the key to opening all doors. If you believe that to be true, then a message like this can be comforting.
The phrase “thoughts and prayers” is a common response to tragedies, both large and small. When disasters take place, humans often feel powerless.
Therefore, we can still comfort someone by letting them know that we are thinking of them or that we are appealing to a higher power to make this difficult time easier for them. Still, due to the religious undertones, this is another response to be wary of unless you know the person well.
If you’re looking for a more secular response, you can say any of the following:
- My thoughts are with you during this difficult time.
- I’m keeping you in my thoughts.
- I am sending all my love to you.
- We are thinking of you (and your family).
They Will Be Missed
Often, in a condolence message, you may wish to talk about the deceased. To do this, many people will use the common phrase, “They will be missed.”
However, if you look at the wording, it does sound insensitive due to its passivity. You might choose to say something like this instead:
- I knew (insert person’s name). He/She will be missed.
While this is still in the passive voice, adding that you knew the person adds a personal touch.
The following examples are in the active voice:
- Kevin was a good person; I will miss him.
- I will cherish my memories with Kevin forever.
My Heart Goes out to You
“My heart goes out to you” is another way of showing sympathy and compassion to someone after a loss. You may encounter it in sentences such as:
- My heart goes out to you during this difficult time.
- I am sorry for your loss; my heart goes out to you.
Putting Your Condolences Into Action
If you’re close to a person or their family, a simple condolence message may seem insufficient. At times, it may be best to put your condolences into action. There are many things you can do to help the people you care about while they’re struggling.
Try to offer help of any sort. Provide food, transport, assistance with housework, or anything else the grieving family may need or even request.
You can also visit the family’s home and comfort the grieving — in certain cultures, it is the expectation, even if you aren’t close to the deceased.
Another action is to simply attend the funeral services to show your support. Finally, you can give the family the time and space to discuss their feelings — or process them independently, depending on the person.
Things to Avoid When Offering Condolences
What makes death so tricky is that even if you aren’t experiencing the magnitude of grief, the people you talk to often are. That can cause us to stress and fumble through our words for anything that provides the minutest amount of comfort.
So if you’re trying to comfort someone, keep these tips in mind:
First, do not compare your loss to theirs. Remember, every relationship is different, and the way people process grief varies. So, before you bring up the dog your family lost two years ago, consider the impact of such a comparison.
Second, try not to force positivity. You may need to give someone a push if they’ve been in mourning for a couple of weeks or months. But when the wounds are fresh, trying to find a silver lining in loss can be insensitive.
This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
Third, do not focus on what you would do in their situation. Remember that every person is different.
Loss is hard. It brings up difficult emotions, which require time and mental fortitude to pass. When interacting with those who are grieving, be sure to show that you care, but try to remember some of the tips above.
If you’re uncertain of what to do, make sure to offer your condolences. There are various correct ways to do this, including saying, “Please accept my condolences.” So next time you’re tongue-tied (or text-tied), go for one of the classics.