Too Bad

Tuesday, July 5, 2022


What does “too bad” mean in this joke?  

Parallel lines have so much in common. It’s too bad they’ll never meet. 

Taken literally, one is likely to think “too bad” means really bad or extremely bad, which is one way to define the phrase. In this joke, however, it translates to “it’s unfortunate” or “it’s a pity.”

  • It’s too bad the jacket doesn’t fit you.
  • It’s too bad David can’t come to the picnic. 
  • That’s too bad. I’m sorry to hear that. 

Let’s look at one more: “Too bad” can be used in an ironic way to show that one is not sorry or does not feel sympathy about a problem. 

A: “I want to go to the football game.” 
B: “Too bad. You failed your math exam so you need to stay home and study instead.”

So, “too bad” means three different things:

  1. Literally = extremely bad
  2. Expressing sympathy
  3. Expressing a lack of sympathy
For English learners, it's good to keep these differences in mind, especially when someone says "too bad" to you. 

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