Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Have you heard people use the phrase “it’s a shame” in English?

Do you hear the word “shame” used a lot in conversation?

This is one of those words that you may hear used in a variety of ways, and you want to understand how it works.

Today we’re going to look at the phrases that feature the word “shame” and how you can add this into your conversations as you are learning English and increasing your level.

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We have a question from a listener about a very common phrase that features the word “shame” in it.

Hello Lindsay from Jordan!

Thanks for your podcast, it really helps to improve my overall English experience! I was listening to one of your episodes, “Is Bad Always Bad In English?”, and I have a question. I am wondering about the phrase “it’s a shame.”

I don’t know when to use this phrase, as I’m a bit confused. I thought early on that it may not be the best phrase to use when trying to connect with others. However after some research, I found that there can be other phrases for this phrase.

Can you help me to understand how to use the phrase “it’s a shame” in conversation?

Thanks in advance for your help,


Understanding Some Background

This is a great phrase, and it’s a great question about this phrase.

The episode that was brought up in the example by the listener is a great one to listen to about this subject.

Is Bad Always Bad In English?

There’s also another episode that is worth checking out to give you some helpful background on this phrase.

That’s Too Bad! Show Your Sympathy Depending On The Situation In English

So let’s take a look at the phrase “it’s a shame” because there can be various ways to use it as you might expect.

The definition is that’s too bad or it’s unfortunate, referring to something that happened.

You can use it just in this straightforward way that you have likely seen it as many times in conversation.

We’re going to take it a bit deeper though, and really get to other helpful ways that you can use this in conversation.

Looking At This Phrase In A Different Way

So you see the literal or more common meaning behind this phrase, and you have probably heard it used in conversation before.

Can the phrase “it’s a shame” be used in a positive way, or as a way to connect?

There really isn’t much that is negative about this phrase in terms of connection, and it could be used for something like complaining.

This could create a middle ground as complaining is something that you may do with others, particularly if it’s about a situation that you both share.

You may try to do less complaining, but sometimes a mutual situation may bring it about and this phrase could work well there.

There are also a few other ways to use this phrase with a slight variation to it.

These are all very similar to “it’s a shame” but have a different word or arrangement to them to give them different ways to use them.

“It’s a shame that we can’t arrange a meeting today.”

“It was a shame to miss the show last night.”

“It’d be a shame to lose out on the opportunity because of fear.”

These are all very similar to what a shame, so we wanted to talk about the word shame more.

That’s the focus here, as it’s at the base of each of these uses and is a common word and focus.

When you look at the word “shame” it means embarrassment or guilt in some way.

You might say “I felt so much shame when I lost her phone.”

You can also use the word shame as a verb, and that means to embarrass or to humiliate.

You could say “I shamed him for losing my phone.”

So you start to get a feel for how this word and phrases that use it can be a part of your conversations.

Expressions Around This Phrase

There are some common and rather fun ways to use expressions around the word “shame.”

These are worth learning because they can be a great addition to your conversations.

  • Shame on you/someone: This is taking the word to a very literal level, and you are making somebody feel bad for their actions or choices. You are telling them that they did something wrong or that you don’t agree with. There is often a consequence attached to this, and it is often used with a child. You may hear people say just “shame” almost as if in protest too. You could say something like “Shame on you for hitting your little brother!” Another use may be saying something like “Shame on you for leaving before I got there!”
  • Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me: This is a very famous expression, and it says that you never want to fall for the same thing more than once. It means you don’t want to fall into the same trap or make the same mistake more than once. You might hear something like “He keeps pranking me! I will get him next time though. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.”
  • Body shame/mom shame: This sort of term has become very common, particularly in the age of social media. It means that people are shaming you or making you feel bad if you don’t fall into a certain persona or specific guidelines. If you don’t do this, then you’re wrong. If you do this, then you’re bad. This is the sort of thing that you will hear when people say that you are going against the norm. You might say something like “Body shaming as a form of bullying is a huge problem nowadays, especially with social media.”
  • Put to shame: The main definition you may hear is about doing better than someone, almost in an embarrassing way. You did something so great that it put the other person to shame, because they couldn’t even compare to you in any way. You could say “The basketball player put the others to shame in the 3 point competition.”

We’re not doing a roleplay because it would be a lot of repetition.

However you can hopefully see how these phrases work, when to use them, and how this can make for a great addition to conversation.


There are very useful words and expressions that use the word “shame” in them.

This is a common word and it can be used in a variety of interesting ways.

This makes for a great addition to conversation, and it can lead to great connections.

You want to try them out in the right situation, and you will see how natural it can feel to use such expressions.

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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