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.

Speak English Fluently!

Hi! I’m Clare, an English teacher and the founder of this site.

I can help you speak English more easily! Start here for English fluency:
The Fast Phrase Finder – The world’s FIRST spreadsheet of fluency phrases. Get your first 10 English fluency phrases here!