Expressing Emotion in Italian

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Expressing one’s emotions is complex, both in one’s native language and certainly in an adopted language. In Italian, many phrases used to convey emotion are idiomatic, and the choice of verbs can differ with even minor differences in a situation. This is especially true for the winter holiday season, which brings with it happiness and anticipation, and many ways to express these feelings in Italian!

In short, we must learn to think in Italian
if we are to communicate our emotions in Italian!

Expressing Happiness in Italian — Contento, Felice, Piacere

Sono contento(a) di…

If an Italian is happy, he or she describes this emotion with by conjugating the verb essere and following this with the adjective contento(a). “Sono contento” is used for a male and “Sono contenta is used for a female for the simple line, “I am happy.” Remember from our previous article “Italian Linking Verbs“that the adjective following a linking verb must match the gender and number of the subject, as noted by the red “o” and “a” at the end of the adjective, so we have to forms: contento and contenta.

To add what you are happy about doing to the end of an Italian sentence, use preposition di and an infinitive Italian verb. The sentence structure becomes [essere contento(a) + di…]. For example: “Sono contento di andare in Italia,” for “I am happy to go to Italy.” If you need a refresher on other phrases that use the preposition di to link the subject with additional information at the end of the sentence, visit the blog “How to use “di’ in Italian.”


Sono felice di…

Felice also means happy in Italian, but is less commonly used to describe an individual’s general feeling of well-being. In this situation, the meaning of felice can be thought of as closer to the English adjective cheerful; if someone you know is always smiling and upbeat when you encounter them, then felice would be an appropriate descriptor of their personality.

However, there are occasions when one may be particularly happy and excited about an event. Essere felice or [essere felice + di…] can be used in this case, with the same sentence structure as used for contento(a). Of course, since the Italian adjective felice ends in “e,” both males and females can use the same ending!

For the holidays, instead of translating “Merry Christmas” or “Happy New Year” into Italian as “Felice Christmas” or “Felice Anno Nuovo,”

remember that the Italian phrases are
“Buon Natale!” and “Buon Anno Nuovo!”


Esserne contento(a)…
Esserne felice…

Now, if we want our Italian conversation
about happiness to flow smoothly and naturally,
we can introduce the Italian “ne” into our sentence.


In an Italian conversation, the pronominal verb esserne can be used before contento(a) or felice to describe being happy about something already mentioned. The pronominal particle ne is placed before the conjugated form of essere.

The Italian ne is translated into the English with “about it,” and takes the place of the thing, event , or entire situation already mentioned in the conversation. Notice from the examples below that in English we put “about it” after the verb.

For instance:

Mia figlia Maria è felice perchè ha vinto il premio.
My daughter Maria is happy because she has won the award.

E anch’io ne sono felice!
And I am also happy about it!
(ne = that the speaker’s daughter has won the award)

Fare piacere!

If someone is making you happy or has made you happy, use fare to let them know, with the lines: “Mi fai molto piacere!” or “Mi hai fatto molto piacere!” for “You make (are making me) very happy!” or “You have made me very happy!”

When talking about another’s happiness, the Italian equivalent for the English expression, “Whatever makes him happy!” is, “Contento lui!” and of course for the feminine, “Contenta lei!”

Similarly, if someone is lucky, the following expressions can be used to mean, “Lucky him/her!” : “Beato lui!” and “Beata lei!”



Expressing Excitement and Anticipation in Italian —
Emozionato, Aspettare, Aspettarsi and Aspettarsela

In America, we often describe being “excited” about an activity or event that is about to happen. In Italian, the adjective to use to describe this positive energy is “emozionato(a).” Beware! The adjective “eccitato(a)” sounds like excited but in Italian has the a negative connotation of excited in a nervous way, such as “hyperactive,” and depending on the circumstance can carry a sexual connotation.

And of course, if you are really excited about the prospect of meeting someone, you can use the idiomatic expression, “Non vedo l’ora di vederti!” for “I can’t wait to see you!” If desired, shorten the phrase to, “Non vedo l’ora!”  to describe your feeling of anticipation.

A nice reply to either of the above phrases would be, “Anch’io!” for “Me too!”

Let’s imagine a short telephone conversation between two friends:
Domani è il mio compleanno. Sono molto emozionato!
Tomorrow is my birthday. I am very excited!

Non vedo l’ora!
I can’t wait!

Anch’io! Mi piacciono molto le feste! E non vedo l’ora di vederti!
Me too! I really like parties! And I can’t wait to see you!


Whether we feel like we can wait for an event or not, in life there is always waiting to be done! The Italian verb that means “to wait” is “aspettare.” Make this verb reflexive with aspettarsi and the meaning changes to “to expect.”

Be careful when using aspettarsi, though. Often aspettarsi will be followed by an action or event in the future. But if you want to expect something from someone else, the subjunctive mood comes into play in Italian, although English still defaults to the future tense! (See example #2 below. Pulisca is the tu present tense subjunctive conjugation.)

Mi aspetto che domani sarà meglio di oggi.
I expect that tomorrow will be better than today.

Mi aspetto che tu pulisca la tua stanza ogni giorno!
I expect that you (will) clean your room every day!


For a more advanced way to talk about expectations, there is also the pronominal verb “aspettarsela,” which means, “to expect something.” This verb is often used to express surprise at someone’s negative behavior. Perhaps you feel deluded when you realize that someone is not “la persona perbene” or “the good person” you thought he or she was. You can express this surprise and delusion with aspettarsela.

The full conjugation of aspettarsela is beyond the scope of this blog. However, it is easy to create a few phrases with this verb. Remember these phrases and you will truly sound like a native Italian!

Briefly, this is how the pronominal verb aspettarsela works: 

To talk about a past event you did not expect, conjugate the root verb, aspettare, into the io form of the imperfetto past tense, which is aspettavo.

Since you are referring to yourself, convert the impersonal se in aspettarsela to me.

If the person who is under discussion is a female, place  la (notice that la is an integral part of the infinitive verb aspettarsela) after me; when talking about a male, the la changes to lo.

Now you are ready to make the most common phrase used with aspettarsela, “Non me la aspettavo!” The translation is, “I wouldn’t have expected it!” To really sound like a native Italian, emphasize the la or lo when speaking, as if to say, “From this person, no, absolutely not, I certainly would not have expected it!”

You can even add an additional phrase at the very end of the sentence to refer to the person twice — redundant, but very Italian — “da lei” or “da lui.”

Along the lines of waiting and negative behavior, if you are waiting for someone and he or she never “shows up” you can use the reflexive verb presentarsi. (Remember Italian uses reflexive verbs to change the original meaning while in English we do the same by combining the verb a preposition.)

Some examples of the disappointment that may come with waiting, using our Italian verb aspettarsela:

Ho aspettato per tre ore! Lui era molto in ritardo. Non me lo aspettavo! (da lui!)
I waited for three hours! He was very late. I wouldn’t have expected it! (from him!)

Ho aspettato a casa per tutta la notte. Lei non si è presentato! Non me la aspettavo! (da lei!)
I waited at home all night! She never showed up! I never would have expected it! (from her!)


Remember how to use verbs that express emotions in Italian.
Much  happiness and anticipation
for the holidays
and for every day!


For “All the Italian you need to enjoy your trip to Italy,” click on the links below to purchase my Conversational Italian for Travelers books – Kathryn Occhipinti

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Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar” and “Just the Verbs” books: Available on  and Learn Travel
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About Kathryn Occhipinti

Dr. Kathryn Occhipinti is a radiologist who has been leading Italian language groups in the Peoria and Chicago areas for more than 10 years. She is the author of the “Conversational Italian for Travelers” series of books to teach adults Italian with the vocabulary they need to travel to Italy. She is very active on social media promoting Italian language and culture through her Facebook group Conversational Italian! as well on Twitter @travelitalian1. Links to audio for her Italian language dialogues and her blogs for beginning and intermediate Italian can be found at

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