Empathy or Sympathy?
Empathy or Sympathy?What is the difference between "empathy" and "sympathy"?
- "Empathy" means the ability to understand and share the feelings of another (having shared the same, or a similar, experience).
- "Sympathy" means feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune.
More about "Empathy" and "Sympathy"Writers often confuse "empathy" and "sympathy." These two words are similar in meaning, but they are not the same. If you use the wrong one, you will either change the meaning of your sentence or be spotted as someone who doesn't know the difference.
A Video SummaryHere is a short video summarizing the difference between empathy and sympathy:
EmpathyThe noun "empathy" means the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. This ability usually derives from having shared the same, or a similar, experience. For example, you can have empathy for a poor person if you are, or were, poor.
- I have empathy for your problem. I've been there.
- Empathy is at the heart of the actor's art. (Actress Meryl Streep)
- The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy. (also Meryl Streep)
- Friendship is a living thing that lasts only as long as it is nourished with kindness, empathy, and understanding. (anon)
- I can empathize with you. I've been there.
- He will empathize with you. He managed the same department for ten years.
SympathyThe noun "sympathy" means feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune. For example:
- You have my utmost sympathy. You trained like a demon for that race.
- I would like to extend my sympathy to your son. I am sorry to hear of the death of his goldfish.
- The vicar will sympathize with you. She knows how hard you trained. (There is no suggestion the vicar has trained hard herself (that would be "empathize" not "sympathize"). As a result, the preposition "with" does not feel right with "to sympathize" because "sympathizing" usually means you haven't experienced the bad event yourself. "With" seems a better fit for "empathize." However, it is used with both verbs.)
- It's hard not to have sympathy with their claims.
- It's clear from her inaction that she sympathizes with their cause.