By Marcus Hoo

Sympathy means the feeling of sorrow or commiseration for the hardships, problems and pain caused to another person. It is often confused with empathy which refers to an individual’s ability to understand what another person is going through, by perceiving himself in the same situation.

  • Jay had much sympathy for the car accident victims. But he cannot seem to empathize with them.

In the example above, the word sympathy is used to mean the compassion Jay has for the victims, but as he has not suffered such an accident he cannot empathize.

Essentially, the difference between sympathy and empathy is that sympathy is all about feeling sorry for someone’s misfortune, whereas empathy implies acknowledging and relating to what the other person is feeling.

Definition of Sympathy

The word ‘sympathy’ is created out of two Greek terms ‘sun’ and ‘pathos’, which means ‘with’ and ‘feeling’ respectively. Hence, it refers to feeling with someone, i.e. commiseration.

It is a feeling of pity for the suffering of another individual that leads to his sadness. So, while feeling sympathy for another person, we actually have compassion and wish to help the other person. It can be used in the following ways:

  1. To show a feeling of understanding and care for another person’s hardships and distress:
    • His best friend showed much sympathy on the death of his mother.
    • The neighbours expressed sympathy on the demolishment of Mr Sharma’s house.
  2. To express support:
    • The MLA is having the sympathy of his entire constituency.
  3. Mutual understanding or affinity between persons:
    • The husband and wife shared special sympathy.

Charity and donation concept. hands of volunteers holding and giving heart.

Definition of Empathy

The word ’empathy’ is a combination of two Greek words ’em’ and ‘pathos’ which means ‘in’ and ‘feeling’ respectively. It refers to feeling oneself in someone else’s situation, i.e. what another person feels in a particular situation.

So for empathy, we have the ability to imagine ourselves in the same situation, i.e. in their place and experience their sufferings, as if they are ours. In other words, it is a person’s capability to suppose himself in another person’s condition or position.


  • She has a lot of empathy for the jobless youth, as she is also struggling for a job.
  • After Frank lost his favourite bike to thieves, he felt empathy for his sister who lost her phone last month.

Soft skills empathy isometric icon with woman calming her colleague 3d

Key Differences Between Sympathy and Empathy

The points given below are important so far as the difference between sympathy and empathy is concerned:

  1. Sympathy is like having concern and pity for another person’s problems and misfortunes. On the other hand, empathy means actually feeling that pain, which another person has undergone.
  2. Sympathy includes caring about another person’s well-being and willing to help him. Conversely, empathy not only includes caring about the other person but also personally understanding the struggles and problems of the other person by imagining himself in that situation.
  3. Sympathy for a person arises as a result of pity for negative experiences. As against, empathy for a person can be for both positive and negative experience.
  4. Sympathy takes place when you come to know that another person is going through some problem or hardship. On the contrary, empathy occurs when you start feeling the pain and hardship which another person is experiencing.

Want to feel how it’s like to be empathized with? You can do so with our therapists here at Aventis Wellness:


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