DON’T Say POR DESGRACIA, say THESE 7 Alternatives Instead!

DON’T Say POR DESGRACIA, say THESE 7 Alternatives Instead!

MAURA
¡Hola! Te estamos esperando. ¿Vas a venir?
(Hi! We're waiting for you. Are you coming?)

AMANDA
Por desgracia, me llamaron del trabajo con una emergencia y ahora no sé a qué hora voy a salir.
(Unfortunately, I got a call from work with an emergency and now I don't know what time I'm finishing. (lit.: going out))

Honestly, I rarely say “por desgracia”. To me it sounds very intense. The word desgracia (disgrace) I mean. So, I save it for when I feel a bit more dramatic. Stay with me and let’s go through 7 ways to express your regret in Spanish, how to use them and when. ¡Empecemos!

1. Lamentablemente

MAURA
¡No! Lamentablemente, se nos está haciendo tarde y nos tenemos que ir pronto.
(No! Unfortunately, we are running late and we have to leave soon.)

AMANDA
Lo sé, lo sé. No se preocupen. Adelántense y yo te aviso si logro desocuparme.
(I know, I know. Don't worry about it. You go ahead and I'll let you know if I manage to free up.)

MAURA
Vale. Si no te contesto rápido, me llamas.
(Okay. If I don't answer quickly, call me.)

AMANDA
¡Seguro!
(Sure!)

Lamentablemente is both the first and most common alternative for me. This one I use all the freaking time. Usualmente para decir cosas como: (Usually to say things like:)

  • Lamentablemente, llegamos tarde y ya habían cerrado. (Unfortunately, we arrived late and they were already closed.)
  • Es que, lamentablemente, la mayoría de la gente solo interpreta las cosas a través de su ego. (It's that, unfortunately, most people only interpret things through their ego.)
  • Lamentablemente, pero es así. (Unfortunately, but that's the way it is.)

There’s other words ending in “-mente” that you could use as well. Did you know that most words that end in “ly” in English end in “-mente” in Spanish? It changes the word from an adjective, like difícil, felíz o mayor (hard, happy or most) to an adverb, as in: difícilmente (hardly), felízmente (happily), mayormente (mostly). “-ly” and “-mente” are both suffixes. Understanding them is very useful to help you form and figure out new words.

There’s one specific “-mente” that, as a native, sounds funny to me. Hablaremos de ello en un momento. (We’ll talk about that in a moment.) Primero (First), whether you’re new here or you haven’t done it yet, check out that link in the description. You’ll be able to download our free Essential Spanish Chunking kit and get many everyday chunks that you can start using right now.

MAURA
Bueno, desafortunadamente, a Amanda la atraparon en el trabajo.
(Well, unfortunately, Amanda got caught up at work.)

CARLA
¿Otra vez? ¡Qué fastidio ese jefe!
(Again? What a pain that boss!)

MAURA
Lo sé, pero ni modo.
(I know, but it is what it is.)

CARLA
¿Y qué hacemos entonces?
(So what do we do then?)

MAURA
Salir. Me dijo que nos adelantáramos y ella avisa cuando termine.
(Leave. She told me to get going and she’ll let me know when she's done.)

In this dialogue you can find desafortunadamente (unfortunately) which might be my second-most used alternative.

Notice how this words, lamentablemente and desafortunadamente (regretfully and unfortunately) tend to go at the beginning of the sentence.

Now, there’s this infortunadamente (unfortunately), which is the one that sounds a little funny to me. For my brain this just translates “unfortunately” too literally.

Tenemos opciones más naturales que ésta (We have more natural options than this one.) Though, infortunadamente is definitely a word. Actually, from infortunadamente we get infortunios (misfortunes) which I certainly use more often. Por ejemplo (For example):

  • El viaje estuvo lleno de infortunios, pero logramos ver todo lo que queríamos de todas formas. (The trip was full of misfortunes, but we managed to see everything we wanted to anyway.)

2. Por mala suerte

Did you know that pena (shame) and lástima (pity) can be synonyms but are not used the same by all Spanish-speaking people? Quédate conmigo hasta el final, donde hablaremos un poco más sobre esto. (Stick with me till the end, where we’ll talk a bit more about this.)

CARLA
Por mala suerte le tocaron esos jefes, porque los míos son incapaces de fastidiar tanto un viernes por la tarde.
(Unluckily for her she got those bosses, because my bosses are incapable of bothering me so much on a Friday afternoon.)

MAURA
Digo lo mismo. Si yo fuera ella, estaría buscando otras opciones.
(I say the same thing. If I were her, I'd be looking for other options.)

CARLA
Debería, porque está bien si es una que otra vez, pero esto le pasa bastante a menudo.
(She should, because it's okay if it's just once in a while, but this happens quite often.)

MAURA
Sí, también es que ya se acostumbraron a que ella conteste inmediatamente, así sea un domingo.
(Yes, it's also that they are used to her answering immediately, even on a Sunday.)

Por mala suerte (Unluckily) is a perfectly ok alternative. En mi caso (In my case), I do find it a big negative, though. Algo muy parecido sería (Something very similar would be):

  • Por desdicha (Sadly)
    • Por desdicha no ha podido conseguir un trabajo mejor. (Sadly, she has not been able to get a better job.)

This might also sound a bit outdated to me. It’s also the only context in which I have ever used or have ever heard the word “desdicha” (sadly).

Chunk Alert!

Una que otra vez (Every now and then) is a chunk I use all the freaking time. We have many ways to say this, but I like this one the better. Use it any time you want to mean “sporadically”. For example:

  • Yo solo como carne una que otra vez. En general, prefiero los granos. (I only eat meat every now and then. In general, I prefer grains.)
  • Una que otra vez escucho de la gente del colegio, pero no estoy en contacto permanente con ellos. (Every now and then I hear from people from high school, but I am not in permanent contact with them.)

3. Es una lástima

MAURA
Es una lástima que tanta gente tenga que lidiar con malos equipos de trabajo.
(It's a pity that so many people have to deal with bad work teams.)

CARLA
¡Total! Uno pasa tanto tiempo en el trabajo que es imposible que no te dañe la salud si el ambiente es pesado o tóxico.
(Totally! You spend so much time at work that it is impossible not to damage your health if the environment is heavy or toxic.)

MAURA
Yo por eso doy las gracias por la gente con la que he tenido la suerte de trabajar.
(That is why I am thankful for the people I have been fortunate enough to work with.)

CARLA
Como debe ser. Eso es todo un privilegio.
(As it should be. That is a privilege.)

This es una lástima (it’s a pity) works a little bit different from the others but it includes the same feeling. Usually you’d say it when you feel more sorry than unlucky, though. Cosas como: (Things like:)

  • Es una lástima cómo hoy en día los niños tienen cada vez menos tiempo para jugar. (It is a pity that nowadays children have less and less time to play.)

You can change the beginning a bit and just use qué (what) instead:

  • Qué lástima que no pudimos ver a Amanda este fin. (What a pity we didn't get to see Amanda this weekend.)

Ahora (Now), remember I said pena (shame) and lástima (pity) are not used the same by all natives? Here’s the thing.

Es una pena (it’s a shame) would be a synonym of es una lástima (it’s a pity). But, some Spanish-speaking countries, like Spain, prefer to use pena (shame) for this chunk. While countries like Venezuela prefer to use lástima (pity).

Lo que pasa es que pena (What happens is that shame) to me, is more about embarrassment than feeling sorry or regretful. As a result, when I tell Spaniards: ¡Qué pena! They hear: what a shame or what a pity. When I tell Venezuelans: ¡Qué pena!, they hear: how embarrassing. Curioso, ¿no? (Curious, right?)

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