Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"
new york city how to empathize in English

Do you want to be able to empathize in English with native speakers when they share something?

In English we can say, “That’s ____ for you” to empathize and show that we understand what the person is sharing or that we have had a similar experience.

This is actually a phrase that is quite useful and places emphasis on the point you are trying to make.

We’re going to look at the ways to use this, when you might not want to use it, and how it can make for a great way of connecting through conversation.

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A Really Useful Phrase

If you’ve heard somebody use the phrase “That’s ___ for you” then you might have wondered exactly what that meant.

So what does this mean to add “hey” into a sentence in this way?

When you say it in this way, you usually mean “that’s typical” or “that’s not surprising”.

It might even mean “what else would I expect?” in a situation that seems pretty typical.

This is actually a really useful phrase and one that you may use more often than you think.

You have to be careful of the way in which you use this phrase though, because it may come across in a negative way.

In some conversations this may be irritating, particularly if somebody is coming to you seeking comfort.

You don’t want to blow them off or make them feel bad by using this phrase at the wrong time.

If it’s a conversation and you are reflecting or talking about something familiar, then inserting “that’s ____ for you” can work quite well.

It’s that little bit of emphasis that you will find to be useful in the right conversation.

Why This Phrase Works So Well

Why do we use a phrase like this?

It’s good to express that something is a shared experience, even if it’s complaining about something.

You may have that complaining or negativity in common, and so it’s okay to use this phrase in that context.

This shows people you know what they are talking about, and that you can relate.

Being able to relate like that is a big part of making connections.

You always want to be sure that using these expressions is appropriate because there is definitely a slight bit of sarcasm to them.

This is a really dynamic way to discuss things that are usual or common.

You can talk about somebody’s habits or personality, a place, a team, or anything that you have in common and can relate to.

Being able to relate is a big part of conversations, and so using this phrase can be quite helpful.

Using This In Conversations

There are several different ways that you can use this in a conversation.

Take a look at this brief roleplay to see how this phrase could be used.

Lindsay: “Michelle I am just feeling really uncomfortable about moving. It takes so long to adjust.

Michelle: “Yeah I know. Well, that’s moving for you.”

This might be seen as insensitive so you want to be careful to take the other person’s feelings into consideration.

If there is any chance that this phrase may come off as insensitive, then don’t use it.

You can use it though in other circumstances and conversations and be just fine.

You might say “Wow the traffic here is so bad. I love life in the big city, but hey that’s New York for you.”

This is an example of a time where saying this phrase is perfectly acceptable and works well in conversation.

Just weigh out the right time, the situation, and the person you are talking to so as to avoid coming off as insensitive.

Other Ways To Use This

There are other ways to use this which work quite well too.

Again this can be a phrase that is centered around sarcasm, and so you want to remember that.

If it’s the right person and the right conversation, then using it can be a lot of fun actually.

If you were to say it in a sarcastic or almost defeated way, then it works just perfectly.

Here’s a brief roleplay that demonstrates how this can work in conversation.

Michelle: “I couldn’t sleep last night. It was so loud outside my apartment.”

Lindsay: “Oh that’s too bad.”

Michelle: “Oh well, that’s city living for you!”

You could use it to identify somebody that you are both familiar with.

In this situation, you might have an interaction that goes like this.

“Oh my goodness. She’s late again, I can’t believe it. Oh well, that’s Rachel for you!”

You can use it to identify a common observation or characteristic.

Michelle: Yuck all the food on this menu is fried and greasy.”

Lindsay: “That’s bar food for you!”

Michelle: “I know, I know.”

You can also use the word typical in these sentences too as it works just the same.

You might say “Oh the subway is late again. Typical New York!”

This could also work to increase your score on the IELTS Speaking test. In Speaking Part 1 you might be asked about your hometown and this would be one way to show that you are familiar with the situation. For example, “I live in Boston. People are busy and everyone always talks about their careers but hey, that’s Boston for you.”


These phrases can be really helpful in connecting.

Be careful how you use them and search for the right situations with the right people–you never want to come off as insensitive.

Try them out today and see how they work for you in your conversations.

Think of what is typical in your life and use this as a point to connect with others.

There’s a good chance that there are others who share similar feelings on people or situations–and this makes for a great way to connect through conversation.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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