How to express shock in English

It is sometimes difficult to say how you feel in unexpected situations, such as natural disasters, especially when you feel sad. Here’s a list of some common expressions to help you express shock and disbelief.


I was shocked to hear…
The news came as a complete shock.
We’re all in complete shock.
Everyone’s reeling from the shock of…
It happened out of the blue.
Who could have predicted it?
I (just) can’t get over ….
We were completely taken aback by…
I was just stunned by…


I just can’t believe…
It’s unbelievable.
I / You just can’t imagine…
Words can’t describe… (how I feel about / the terrible devastation etc)
There’s no way it could have happened.

Saying how bad something is

It’s so awful.
It’s terrible / What terrible news.
It’s a tragedy.
It’s a catastrophe (pronounced “ca – tas – tra – fee” with the stress on “-tas”)
This is the worst thing that could have happened.

The after effects

Here are some words and phrases that we often use to talk about the immediate or long-term effects of a natural disaster or other sad event.

to come to terms with = to accept: “It will take us a few months to come to terms with what’s happened.”

to assess the damage = to find out the extent of the damage: “Surveyors are assessing the damage done to buildings.”

to provide emergency relief / emergency assistance: “International organisations are providing emergency relief.”

to give moral support = to sympathise with the victims: “We can only give them our moral support.”

to learn the lessons = to learn from something: “We hope the government will learn the lessons from the earthquake and spend more money on research.”

to be better prepared: “Monitoring will help us be better prepared in the future.”

See also Talking about the news in English for more useful phrases for commenting on news stories.

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How to express shock in EnglishHi! I’m Clare, an English teacher and the founder of this site.

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6 thoughts on “How to express shock in English”

  1. Excellent, and well put together material, of particular use now, trending on the Presidential debates, both on TV & News. I would love to adapt it to my low intermediate conversation class. Thank you.

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