It's a Pity!

Communication Activity
Functional language development outside the classroom

This is a way to introduce snippets of functional language that will help learners become more fluent and encourage them to think about the language outside class. It's called 'It's a pity!'

Video Transcript - It's a pity!

Learners usually only have a few hours at best in class every week, so there’s a trick in getting them to keep thinking about English through the week when they’re NOT in class. Here’s an idea that does that, encourages authentic communication in and out of class and will help your learners develop fluency. No prep needed either! What’s not to like?

I’m Jo Gakonga from and this is another in my series on ‘Communication Activities’.

Towards the end of the class, write on the board ‘Regret’ and ‘Sympathy’. Ask, which one means feeling sorry about something that I did (regret) and which one means feeling sorry about something that happened to someone else (sympathy). Tell them that these are both for BIG things and ask them what we can say if you feel just a BIT sorry. Act out this side of a phone dialogue and ask them to spot two expressions like this.

On the phone:
'Of course – no problem. It’s such a shame I can’t come over today but I’m so busy. Does it matter if it’s another day? How about Tuesday? It’s a pity that you live so far away now. When you lived next door, I could just pop in so easily….'

Hopefully, they’ll spot these two expressions:
  • It’s (such) a shame
  • It’s a pity

This is really useful language - make sure they’ve understood the meaning – shame and pity in other contexts are quite strong words so check they get that here you’re just a bit unhappy that this thing can’t happen.

  • It’s such a shame I can’t come over today.
  • It’s a pity that you live so far away now.

Put the sentences up and ask them to identify the sentence patterns after the stem. They should get that it's: 
  • It’s (such) a shame/pity (that)+ clause

Now, before you say it, I know that it can also be followed by an infinitive, but this meaning is a bit different- the function here isn’t regret -it’s more like obligation (you should go- you shouldn’t waste the opportunity) so personally, I’d leave that for another day.
  • It’s a pity not to go.
  • It’s a shame to waste the opportunity

OK – so you have the meaning and form of it’s a pity/ it’s a shame. Elicit some examples and drill to raise awareness of the linking and sentence stress. Now tell them that their homework is to find an opportunity before the next class to use this expression. If they have access to other English speakers, that’s great, but even if they don’t, tell them to be on the lookout for when they would say this and say it at least in their head. When they come into class the next time, your first warmer activity is to get them to tell each other about when they did.

If you (or they) want other examples of this and to practice their pronunciation, Youglish is great – tell them to put in ‘it’s a pity that’ or ‘it’s a shame that’ so that they avoid the infinitive versions.

You can do this for all sorts of useful snippets of functional language - maybe try it as a regular slot in class - it’ll make your learners feel and sound more fluent and keep them thinking about English (if not thinking in it).

Hope you have fun with it.
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