Expressing feelings, Part 2

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The verb sentirsi means “to feel” in Italian and therefore sentirsi is the verb Italians use to describe their deepest emotions. You will immediately notice from the -si ending that sentirsi is a reflexive verb. We English speakers do not use a reflexive verb when we put our emotions into words, since “feeling” is not considered a reflexive activity in our way of thinking. Because of this important difference, we will really have to learn how to think in Italian to express our feelings with sentirsi!  

Learning how to use the verb sentirsi is really not all that tricky, though, once you understand the general idea of how to conjugate a reflexive verb. Just remember to add one of the reflexive pronouns (mi, ti, si, ci, vi, si) before the conjugated form of sentirsi. Then finish the sentence by saying how you feel, just as you would in English.

Sentirsi has been conjugated in full in the table below. Sentirsi is a regular -ire verb, so its conjugations are presented in green.  The reflexive pronouns that go with each conjugation are in blue. Since we do not use reflexive pronouns with the equivalent verb “to feel” in English, the Italian reflexive pronouns will not appear in the translation.

 

Sentirsi to feel

io mi sento I feel
tu ti  senti you (familiar) feel
Lei
lei/lui
si  sente you (polite) feel
she/he feels
     
noi ci  sentiamo we feel
voi vi  sentite you all feel
loro si  sentono they feel

 

 

Let’s try  to use our newly conjugated Italian verb sentirsi by creating some simple sentences  to describe how we feel.

From the table above, we can see that the common statement, “I feel…” is, “Io mi sento…” But, of course, we always leave out the Italian subject pronoun, so the phrase that Italians use is conversation is just, “Mi sento…” To complete the phrase, just add how you are feeling after the verb!

One way to use the verb sentirsi in conversation is to say, “Mi sento bene!” which means, “I feel well!” (Notice Italians do not say, “I feel good,” which is actually grammatically incorrect, although we say this in English all of the time.)

If we remember how to use our reflexive verbs, we know that if we want to ask someone how they are feeling, we can simply say, “Ti senti bene?”  “Are you feeling well?”

To have a conversation with one person about another person’s health, we can use the same phrase to relay a fact or to ask a question: “Si sente bene.”  “He/she is feeling well.” “Si sente bene?” “Is he/she feeling well?” 

 

(Io) Mi sento bene.

(Io) Non mi sento bene.
(Io) Mi sento male.

I feel well.

I don’t feel well.
I don’t feel well.

(Tu) Ti senti bene. Do you feel well?
(Lei/Lui) Si sente bene. She/he feels well.
(Lei/Lui) Si sente bene. Does she/he feel well?

 

You will remember from our last blog about the Italian verb stare that  stare is also used to talk about general well-being, either “good” or “bad,” similar to the sentences above. Since both verbs are used to describe how we feel, the difference in meaning between stare and sentirsi  can seem insignificant. But, by convention, stare is always the verb used when greeting someone. And, although sentirsi can be used to make generalizations, the use of sentirsi is more often a specific referral about how we feel, either to a health issue or actual feelings of happiness, sadness, etc.

 

 

The table below is a list of adjectives that you can use to describe in detail how one is feeling with sentirsi.  Just add one of these adjectives after the words, “Mi sento…” for “I feel…,” just as you would in English. Remember that male speakers must use the “o” ending and female speakers the “a” ending for these adjectives that refer back to the subject.  If the adjective ends in an “e,” the ending does not need to be changed, of course.

 

bene well
contento(a) / felice happy 
male badly, unwell
nervoso(a)
emotionato(a)
nervous
excited/thrilled
triste sad

 

Some simple example sentences:

Mi sento conteno. I am happy. (male speaker)
Mi sento contenta. I am happy. (female speaker)
Mi sento triste. I feel sad. (male or female speaker

 

Notice, that both “contento(a)” and “felice” mean “happy” in Italian. But, when an Italian wants to describe an internal feeling of happiness, the word chosen is usually “contento(a).” Contento also translates into the English word, “content,” meaning to feel comfortable with or about something. The phrase, “Contento lui!” translates into, “Whatever makes him happy!” 

Also, a note about feeling “excited” about things. In America, a very common phrase is, “I am excited…” which implies a high-energy happiness about an upcoming activity or event. In Italy, the word for “excited” or “thrilled” is “emotionato(a),” and can be used in this type of situation.

Although the Italian word emotionato sounds to the English speaker like “emotional,the Italian adjectives for emotional are actually, “emotivo(a),” or “emozionale.” Be careful! The Italian adjectives emotivo(a) and emozionale are most commonly used to mean “excited” with a negative connotation; emotionato(a) is therefore the best Italian word to choose to describe your happiness about something.

 

The words emotionato” and “emotional,” which sound like they should have similar meanings in each language, but do not, are called, “false friends.”

 

 

Now that we know how to make sentences with the verb sentirsi, let’s see how we can tell others how we feel on Valentines Day, or La Festa degli Innamorati, as the Italians call this day. One of the legends surrounding Saint Valentines Day is that San Valentino, a priest in the Christian church who was jailed by the Romans, wrote the girl he loved a farewell love letter and signed it ‘Your Valentine.”  He knew that this lettera d’amore, would be the last he would write to her before he would be executed for being a Christian.

What do you imagine he could have written in this letter?

The Italian phrase for “I love you,” — when talking about love in a romantic way — is easy. It takes just two short words to relay your special feelings for someone: “Ti amo.”  But after that, what do you say? How do you tell someone how wonderful they make you feel when you are with them?

 

Below are a few expressions that one can use on Valentines day,
some of  which use the verb sentirsi.

 

Quando ti vedo
…mi sento contento(a).
When I see you
…I am happy.
…mi sento un uomo fortunato. I feel like a lucky man.
…mi sento una donna fortunata. I feel like a lucky woman.
…sento che la mia vita è appena cominciata.* I feel like my life has just begun.
… sento che il mondo è tutto mio.* I feel like the world is all mine.

 

*You will notice from two of our examples above that the verb sentire was chosen for the Italian verb that means “to feel,” rather than the reflexive sentirsi. In these two cases, sentire is used in order to make a general comparison about how one’s feeling relates to something else, rather than to state one’s exact feeling. This type of comparison is called a simile and is used to make an idea more vivid — or in our examples, more “flowery” and romantic. It is easy to spot a comparison in Italian, because “che” will be used to link one’s feeling to the descriptive phrase. In English we can translate che into “like.” 

 

Sentire is used in the following to phrases in our table below as well, but for a different reason.  These two examples use the sentence structure, “You make me feel…” which requires sentire to be used in its infinitive form.

Mi fai sentire molto contento(a). You make me feel very happy.
Mi fai sentire che tutto è possibile. You make me feel that everything is possible.

 

If the time “feels right” for you and your Italian love to “officially” declare your  feelings for each other,  you may want to try the important phrases listed here.

 

Vuoi essere la mia fidanzata?

Do you want to be my girlfriend?
Vuoi essere il mio fidanzato? Do you want to be my boyfriend?
Vuoi stare insieme a me per sempre? Do you want to stay together forever?
Vuoi fidanzarti con me? Do you want to get engaged (engage yourself to me)?
Vuoi fidanzarti con me? Will you be my fiancée/finance?
Vuoi sposarti con me? Do you want to get married (marry yourself to me)?
Vuoi sposarti con me? Will you marry me?

 

How would you use sentirsi to tell your love how you feel?
Please leave some examples. I’d love to hear from you!

 

One last note…

 

Italians do not use the words contenta or felice, to wish each other a “Happy Valentines Day,”  but instead use “buon/buono/buona,” as for other holiday expressions, as in: Buona Festa degli Innamorati!

Click on this blog from expoloreitalianculture.com if you are interested in learning more about the traditions of Valentines Day in Italy.

Buon Festa degli Innamorati a tutti voi!

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 www.learntravelitalian.com.

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