Italians are usually direct communicators. They tend to express their feelings explicitly, and expect other people to do the same. Indirect messages are a red flag when dealing with Italians!
You don’t want to end up offending your Italian friend’s mother just because you’re allergic to gluten and really can’t eat the pasta she cooked, right? You’d rather want to learn how to express your regret, wouldn’t you?
Fluency comes also with the development of your 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?
Before expressing yourself, you may want to know how to ask about other people’s emotions! There are a number of ways to reach out to people and encourage them to reveal their emotions. Here are the three most used questions:
“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?”
This one is a much more specific question, and it shows you sincerely care about the other person’s inner world. You usually ask “come ti senti?” after something specific has happened to them.
Let's say they suffered an illness, had a family issue, or they just recovered from a headache. In other words, with this phrase you are checking on them to verify how they are coping with some occurrence.
Please note: 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.
Moreover, the occurrence can also be an imaginary situation. If, for instance, you are curious to know how they would feel in a specific circumstance, you can ask: “come ti senti quando…?”, which means “how do you feel when…?”
Now that you learned a few ways to ask about someone’s emotions, it’s time to unveil the emotion-related phrases pack!
Your new Italian friend asked how you’re doing, and since you would like to establish a nice relationship, you really want to give them an accurate answer. Imagine you feel really happy (and we hope you actually do), what do you say? Here’s a fairly exhaustive list of Italian phrases:
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.
When expressing how you feel, in order to form a correct sentence, you need to pay attention to a couple of grammar rules.
1) As you can see from the list above, the verb we used to introduce 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!
However, there’s another verb you can use: essere (to be). “Sono felice” is grammatically correct as well. So, what is the difference? 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) The second grammar rule affects the adjectives that describe our emotional state. Since Italian is a highly gender-based language, adjectives agree in gender and number with the noun they refer to.
Masculine nouns usually end with -o when singular, and with -i when plural. Therefore, the corresponding adjectives will have the same endings.
“Mio fratello si sente stanco” (my brother is feeling tired)
“I miei fratelli si sentono stanchi” (my brothers are feeling tired).
Feminine nouns, instead, usually end with -a when singular, and with -e when plural. So, if your sister is feeling tired, you’d say “mia sorella si sente stanca”, and if you have two sisters, then the right phrase would be: “le mie sorelle si sentono stanche.”
Please note! There are a number of adjectives that end with -e when singular and with -i when plural, regardless of the gender of the noun, but not of the number. The above-mentioned adjective felice (happy) is one of those.
So, it doesn’t matter which is the gender of your siblings, if they are happy for some reason, they will be felici; and if you only have one sibling, then it’s felice!
The grammar pill has been swallowed! Now that you are provided with a sufficient set of emotion-related phrases, you are ready to express your emotional state in Italian. Our wish for you: Open your heart, be vulnerable!