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What would be a good way to express empathetic sorrow in Portuguese? For example, if my friend's puppy dies and it's not my fault I wouldn't say "Desculpe!" right? "Desculpar" would have a meaning closer to "remove the guilt." I'm looking for a word or phrase that means something similar to "lo siento" in Spanish—a word I can say in consolation and sympathy but doesn't imply that I am somehow responsible for the situation.

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There are several ways of expressing your sympathy.

  • "Sinto muito"
  • "Sinto muito por você"
  • "Lamento" (sounds formal)
  • "Meus pêsames" (too strong for the death of a puppy. Used for people.)
  • "Que pena!" ("seu gato morreu? Ah, que pena!!!)
  • "Ah, que tristeza!"

Edit - As @Jorg B commented, "as minhas condolências" is also used. It's a bit formal, though.

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    "As minhas condolências" (formal too) – Jorge B. Sep 17 '15 at 9:04
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    "Os meus sentimentos" may work as well, depending on how you say it. – Ismael Miguel Sep 17 '15 at 10:53
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    Its good to add that "que pena!" depending on the voice tone may sound false or sarcastic. – Yuuza Sep 17 '15 at 17:44
  • @IsmaelMiguel Yes, we also say it. – Centaurus Sep 17 '15 at 17:44
  • @BrunoLopes I was going to add but, on second thoughts, any of them can be sarcastic depending on intonation and context. "Seu time perdeu de goleada? É mesmo? ah, meus pêsames!" and you say it with a smile. – Centaurus Sep 17 '15 at 17:46
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You're right about "desculpe": it means forgive me, so it would be nonsensical in the situation you describe.

In addition to the phrases in Centaurus’ answer, there are some that, at least in Portugal, would be quite appropriate to express sympathy for a friend whose puppy has die or suffered injury:

Coitado, coitado do cachorrinho, coitadinho, pobrezinho, pobre cachorrinho.

These are more or less equivalent to poor little puppy. These phrases are quite informal, as informal as “ah, que pena” (what a pitty) or more so, and that’s what makes them especially appropriate when dealing with a friend: they sound more heart-felt than "sinto/lamento muito.” They wouldn´t be out of place in more formal settings either. They can be adapted to any pet or to your friend’s child, parent, etc. Now, coitado is an adjective, so you know, it is coitado/a/os/as as appropriate.

If your friend has suffered some setback instead, say, her car has broken down, you’re ordinarily not going to say “poor little car”. You may say, by increasing order of informality:

Que maçada! que aborrecimento! que chatice!”

Let me know if you require something more informal than chatice. These are more less equivalent to what a nuisance! how annoying! and you will sound as though you’re annoyed or upset in sympathy with your friend.

Now in these situations, demeanour says as much as words, but I reckon that’s the same in every language.

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    "maçada" would be unusual in ptBR. We know what it means but we don't use it. For those who are learning Portuguese as a second language, "coitado" can also be sarcastic. – Centaurus Sep 17 '15 at 17:34
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    No doubt about it. I can say coitado in sympathy, and I'm equally able to say it sarcastically. – Jacinto Sep 17 '15 at 17:38

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