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How to express the condolence to someone who lost somebody? Like for example a death of a husband or wife?

3 Answers 3

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Mein herzlichstes Beileid.

or

Mein tiefes Mitgefühl.

are standard phrases for this situation. If you want more variety have a look at Trauerspruch.de. But these are mainly written condolences on that site.

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    "Mein [herzliches] Beileid" is certainly the standard, so you can't really go wrong with that (except for a close friend, where this might be too impersonal). The phrases on the site John linked to seem overly kitschig to me, though. They are also quite long, so if you try to say them, you risk coming across like someone who, well, memorized a phrase. Even written, many of these would feel insincere to me, on account of their kitschigkeit.
    – fzwo
    Dec 2, 2011 at 10:04
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Personally.

Using pre-fabricated standard condolence phrases is... well, for some, it's probably a way of saying "I don't know what to say". But I think if it's heartfelt, you'll find something personal. Even if it's only "Scheiße. Es tut mir leid.".

If it's just a formality, on the other hand, go with John Smithers' suggestion of "Mein [herzliches] Beileid". That's the standard.

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    "Es tut mir leid" is simpler, but can you really say to someone you are not close to? For example, your boss? Dec 2, 2011 at 9:57
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    If you weren't close, it's probably safer to use one of the standard phrases John suggested. Though "es tut mir leid" still works. It also depends on whether it's spoken or written; the latter tends to be more formal.
    – fzwo
    Dec 2, 2011 at 9:59
  • "Das tut mir leid" can also be said to someone you are not close to. Apr 17, 2019 at 11:12
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"herzliches" or even "herzlichstes" is not appropriate in this situation. Are you glad, that somebody died? I hope, your are not. So "Mein Beileid" is all you say at the funeral. And that's it. Nothing more, nothing less.

What does fzwo regret? Did he / she kill the person and rue the deed? I hope not, so "Es tut mir leid" is definitely inadequate. And certainly nobody wants to hear shit (Scheiße) during the ceremony.

Some of the phrases on Trauerspruch.de are really "kitschig". They might be appropriate writing a letter, but not while shaking hands before the church service.

So, keep to the standard "Mein Beileid" and everybody will know what you mean.

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    "herzlich" means "coming from my heart" (my heartfelt sympathy). Example here: duden.de/rechtschreibung/Beileid_aussprechen Dec 3, 2011 at 23:07
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    I do not share Lexis opinion on that, but maybe he/she thinks about "herzlich" beeing inappropriate in this situation because in these days the use of "herzlich" is kind of restricted to "Herzlichen Glückwunsch [zum Geburtstag]" or other "positive" contexts like "jemanden herzlich Willkommen heißen").
    – 0x6d64
    Dec 5, 2011 at 9:05
  • Die Kritik an fzwo teile ich, aber sie gehört in einen Kommentar dort. "Herzlich" klingt in meinen Ohren auch zu schwülstig, aber für Leute die es barock mögen, oder zu sehr steifen Anlässen - Chef, Bürgermeister, Kapitänsbestattung ... vielleicht. Dec 10, 2011 at 5:33
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    While "herzlichstes beileid" might be over the top "herzliches Beileid" surely is the standard expression.
    – gilligan
    Dec 22, 2011 at 10:24
  • "Es tut mir leid" is definitely inadequate. Certainly not. It is a standard response and certainly not inadequate. "Es tut mir leid" does not only mean you regret having done something bad either. It simply expresses "Mitgefühl", i.e. "Sie haben mein Mitgefühl". Apr 17, 2019 at 11:09

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