How to express emotions and feelings in Italian

Italians are usually direct communicators. They tend to express their emotions and feelings explicitly, and expect other people to do the same. Indirect messages are a red flag when dealing with Italians!

That’s why, when learning Italian, it is necessary to be able to express emotions and feelings properly. This is the only way to avoid misunderstandings and miscommunication.

Expressing emotions in a language depends on the cultural norms of that language. As you can imagine expressing emotins in Italian is very different from expressing emotions in Japanese for instance.

Moreover, fluency comes also with the development of an emotional vocabulary. To master a language, we need to go beyond the surface. Between “feeling good” (sentirsi bene) and “feeling bad” (sentirsi male) there are many other shades of emotions.

How do you say in Italian “I feel disgusted” or “I feel grateful”, for example?

Asking about someone’s emotions in Italian

Any functional conversation is based both on questions and replies. So, before learning some replies, it is worth going through some questions as well. In Italian, there are a number of ways to reach out to people and encourage them to expose their emotions and feelings.

Here are the most common ones:

Come va? is a nice conversation starter, just like the English “what’s up?” or “how are things going?”

Typically, “Come va?” is used when you don’t really want to investigate the other person’s emotions, but maybe just have a chat or discuss something specific. If that is the case, it is okay to ignore the question, and move on to the actual point of conversation.

Otherwise, some appropriate answers would be:

You decide whether you want to stay somewhat vague or be more precise!

You might already know the phrase come stai?. It means “how are you?”, and it leaves room for a variety of replies.

When asked “come stai?”, one can either share one's emotions or make use of the non-specific answers mentioned above. Some other answers could be:

If you are truly interested in someone’s emotional state, you’d rather ask come ti senti?, which means “how are you feeling?” or “how do you feel?”

Unlike the previous ones, this is a well-focused question. It suggests a certain care about the other person’s inner world, and it is mostly used to follow up on something that happened to them.

In other words, with this phrase you are checking on your interlocutor to verify how they are coping with some occurrence.

It can be the loss of a loved one, a surprising finding, a bad rainy day…

However, the occurrence doesn’t need to be necessarily a negative one! If your Italian girlfriend just got promoted, “come ti senti?” would do the job too.

The occurrence can also be an imaginary situation. If the goal is to learn how the other person would feel in a specific hypothetical circumstance, “come ti senti?” is the card to play.

Here’s an example: “Come ti senti quando un amico non ti invita alla sua festa di compleanno? = “How do you feel when a friend doesn’t invite you to his birthday party?”

40 phrases for expressing feelings and emotions in Italian

The emotional reaction when not invited to a friend’s party really varies from one person to another. Disappointment, sadness, anger, indifference…and much more. What’s more is that we finally get to find out how to express these emotions in Italian!

Here’s a fairly exhaustive list of phrases Italians would use to share their emotional state:

  1. Mi sento felice : “I’m feeling happy”
  2. Mi sento offeso/a : “I’m feeling offended”
  3. Mi sento triste : “I’m feeling sad”
  4. Mi sento arrabbiato/a : “I’m feeling angry”
  5. Mi sento preoccupato/a
    This Italian adjective looks like the English preoccupied, but it rarely shares the same meaning with it. In fact, the most common translation would be “I’m feeling worried”.
  6. Mi sento stupito/a
    Despite the resemblance to the word stupid, this phrase means “I’m feeling amazed”. A common synonym of «stupito» is «sorpreso», which coincides with the English surprised.
  7. Mi sento confuso/a : “I’m feeling confused”
  8. Mi sento disgustato/a : “I’m feeling disgusted”
  9. Mi sento insoddisfatto/a : “I’m feeling unsatisfied”
  10. Mi sento sfiduciato/a : “I’m feeling discouraged”
  11. Mi sento annoiato/a
    Again, a vocabulary "false friend": «Annoiato» has nothing to do with being annoyed. If you’re feeling annoiato you’re simply bored, whereas if annoyed you would say “mi sento infastidito/a”.
  12. Mi sento grato/a : “I’m feeling grateful”
  13. Mi sento speranzoso/a : “I’m feeling hopeful”
  14. Mi sento euforico/a : “I’m feeling euphoric”
  15. Mi sento contento/a : “I’m feeling content”
  16. Mi sento malinconico/a : “I’m feeling melancholic”
  17. Mi sento ansioso/a : “I’m feeling anxious”
  18. Mi sento sopraffatto/a : “I’m feeling overwhelmed”
  19. Mi sento coraggioso/a : “I’m feeling brave/courageous”. In Italian there is no distinction between bravery and courage: in both cases the term is «coraggioso/a».
  20. Mi sento umiliato/a : “I’m feeling humiliated”
  21. Mi sento frustrato/a : “I’m feeling frustrated”
  22. Mi sento tranquillo/a : “I’m feeling calm”
  23. Mi sento divertito/a : “I’m feeling amused”
  24. Mi sento fiducioso/a : “I’m feeling confident”
  25. Mi sento entusiasta : “I’m feeling enthusiastic”
  26. Mi sento imbarazzato/a : “I’m feeling awkward”
  27. Mi sento in colpa : “I’m feeling guilty”
  28. Mi sento ispirato/a : “I’m feeling inspired”
  29. Mi sento angosciato/a : “I’m feeling distressed”
  30. Mi sento pigro/a : “I’m feeling lazy”
  31. Mi sento spaventato/a : “I’m feeling frightened”
  32. Mi sento appagato/a : “I’m feeling pleased”
  33. Mi sento geloso/a : “I’m feeling jealous”
  34. Mi sento invidioso/a : “I’m feeling envious”
  35. Mi sento irrequieto/a : “I’m feeling restless”
  36. Mi sento rammaricato/a : “I’m feeling regretful”
  37. Mi sento diffidente : “I’m feeling suspicious”
  38. Mi sento nervoso/a : “I’m feeling nervous”
  39. Mi sento allegro/a : “I’m feeling cheerful”
  40. Mi sento emozionato/a : “I’m feeling excited”

Expressing different levels of feelings in Italian

Feelings and emotions are far from being perfect systems. We may feel a little sad, or very discouraged, so it is important to be able to express to what degree we feel sad or discouraged. How to do that in Italian?

« Molto » means very. So, in case you not only feel nervous, but very nervous, you would say: molto nervoso/a.

« Un po’ » means a little. “I’m feeling a little frustrated lately” would become: “Mi sento un po’ frustrata ultimamente.”

« Abbastanza » represents the middle ground. What if you feel quite confused? Italians would say that you feel: abbastanza confuso/a.

Grammar tips for expressing feelings in Italian

When expressing how you feel, in order to form a correct sentence, you need to pay attention to a couple of grammar rules.

1) Choosing the right verb to express feelings in Italian

The verb to use when talking about emotions is «sentirsi», the reflexive mode of the verb «sentire». It means 'to feel', but it can also mean 'to hear', 'to smell', 'to listen', and more.

As always, the context will suggest the right translation of the verb. If the semantic field is ‘emotions’, then it goes without saying that it stands for ‘to feel’.

However, there is another verb that is used when expressing emotions and feelings in Italian: «essere» (to be). “Sono felice” is grammatically correct as well.

When expressing emotions in Italian, the semantic difference between the verb «sentire» and the verb «essere» is the following: while the verb «essere» reveals a somewhat stable condition, the verb «sentirsi» highlights the temporary nature of the emotion/feeling.

In addition, the verb «sentirsi» recalls the fascinating universe of emotions, as well as your relationship with them. It’s more romantic, in a way!

2) Adjectives and their endings

Expressing emotions in Italian relies on using adjectives. Since Italian is a highly gender-based language, adjectives agree in gender and number with the noun they refer to. Italian is similar to French in this respect.

Masculine nouns usually end with -o when singular, and with -i when plural. Therefore, the corresponding adjectives will have the same endings.

Examples:

Feminine nouns, instead, usually end with -a when singular, and with -e when plural. The corresponding adjectives typically have the same endings.

Examples:

Gender agreement is a tough Italian grammar topic. In fact, plenty of exceptions have to be taken into account. For instance, there are a number of adjectives that end with '-e' when singular and with '-i' when plural, regardless of the gender of the noun they refer to.

The above-mentioned adjective «felice» (happy) is one of those:

After this final grammar chapter, you are ready to express your emotional state in Italian. Our wish for you: open your heart, be vulnerable!

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