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Italians can be very expressive”, so they say abroad. We are known around the world for using our hands quite a bit and our facial expressions do not leave any space to misinterpretations. However, we are not afraid to use words too; in fact when you ask “come stai” how are you to an Italian be ready to listen to the full story, do not assume you can get by with a “tutto bene” everything is ok.

Are Italians extremely emotional?

We certainly cannot fall into stereotypes and speak on behalf of 60 million of Italians. However, l’italiano surely echoes with emotionalism which translates in Italian into emotività emozionalità e temperamento emotivo.

The verb emozionare translates as “to excite or to thrill” and the dolce vita language definitely does.

While native English speakers “feel” an emotion, Italians can “try” an emotion too. As a matter of fact, we do use the verb “provare” which also translates as to experience, to try on and to test. For instance we can say “Provo disgusto nei tuoi confronti” (I feel disgust towards you), which is a really strong way to express outrage. In Italian we can also “have” emotions, as in avere paura (to have fear), avere vergogna (to feel ashamed), avere rabbia (to feel angry), avere terrore (to feel terrorised)

Today we will explore how to express positive and negative emotions in Italian

Please read and read again whilst listening to the audios below

Positive Emotions

Sono felice    – I am happy

Sono contento/a – I am happy/pleased/ content

Sono allegro/a  –   I am joyful

Sono entusiasta –  I am enthusiastic

Sono sereno/a  –   I am peaceful

Sono rilassato/a  – I am relaxed

Sono di buon umore – I am in a good mood

Sono orgoglioso/a – I am proud

Idioms

Sono al settimo cielo (lit. I am at the seventh sky). (I am over the moon).

Sono felice come una Pasqua  (lit. I am happy as an Easter) (I am happy as a clam).

Non sto nella pelle  (lit. I am not in the skin). (I am so excited/I can hardly wait).

 

Romantic emotions

Ho una cotta per te – I have a crush on you.

Sono innamorato/a –  I am in love

Ti amo – I love you (only used to express love towards a partner, lover, wife, husband, boyfriend and girlfriend). To express love towards a relative or a friend we use ti voglio bene.

positive exclamations

Positive Exclamations

  • Che bello!– How beautiful/How nice
  • Che buono!– How good!
  • Che dolce!– How sweet!
  • Che piacere! – How nice!
  • Che carino/a – How cute
  • Che bel film! – What a great movie!
  • Che donna fantastica! – What a fantastic woman!
  • Che giornata meravigliosa! –What a marvellous day!

 

Phrases which indicate well-being

  • Mi sento benissimo – I feel very well
  • Mi sento al top – I feel at the top
  • Mi sento pieno/a di energia – I feel full of energy/I am full of beans
  • Mi sento al massimo delle forze – I feel at my peak
  • Mi sento carico/a – I feel energised – I feel excited

 

Please note the English excited is a false friend of eccitato/a, which in Italian means to be sexually aroused.

 

Positive encouragement phrases

  • Bravissimo/a! – Well done!
  • Ottimo! – Excellent!
  • Bello! – Beautiful!
  • Figo! –Cool! (very informal)
  • Eccezionale! – Outstanding!

 

negative-expressionsNegative emotions

Sono triste   –        I am sad

Sono arrabbiato/a  –  I am angry

Sono furioso/a     –      I am furious

Sono ansioso/a    –     I am anxious

Sono nervoso/a   –     I am nervous

Sono scontento/a  –  I am unhappy

Sono infastidito/a –   I am annoyed

Sono stressato/a  –   I am stressed

Sono stanco/a     –    I am tired

Sono deluso/a  – I am disappointed

Sono scandalizzato/a – I am shocked/outraged

Sono sconvolto/a – I am upset

Non sono di buon umore – I am not in a good mood

Idiom: ho la luna storta – I am in a bad mood

romantic-expressions

Romantic expressions

Non ti amo più – I no longer love you

Non sono più innamorato/a di te – I am no longer in love with you

Negative Exclamations

Che tristezza! How sad!

Che stanchezza! How tired!

Che stress! – What a stress!

Che scocciatura! – What an annoyance/ what a pain in the neck!

Che ansia!  – So anxious!

Che disastro! – What a disaster!

Che maledizione! – What a curse!

Che cazzo! (Vulgar) What the fuck!

negative-exclamations

 

Phrases which indicate frustration

Non ne posso più – I can’t stand it any longer

Ne ho abbastanza – I’ve had enough

Ne ho le palle piene (vulgar) – I’ve had enough

Mi sento frustrato/a –  I feel frustrated

Mi sento giù  –  I feel down

Non ce la faccio più – I cannot handle it any longer

Italian culture

 

Verbal

  • Direct Communication: Italians are not afraid to express their emotions and put their point across pretty clearly. They are not afraid to disagree and are open to confrontation. They expect their interlocutor to be honest and open too; therefore, they may fail to read between the lines. Some good advice is to avoid ambiguity and indirect speech.
  • Communication style: 
  • Expect Italians to be open, inquisitive and direct. They will talk about their story and background and they will ask you to do the same. Italians are opinionated and they will not hesitate to give you advice. Foreigners may interpret this way of communicating as judgmental or nosey, however, avoid shutting down their questions and comments, especially if you want to close a deal.
  • Silence:
  • For Italians silence can be uncomfortable. If the periods of silence are prolonged Italians will tend to speak to fill them.
  • Raised Voices: Italians speak loudly to make themselves heard over one another. A raised voice is not necessarily a sign of anger, but can be an expression of excitement or conviction.
  • Humour: Italians are not very politically correct, at least not as much as the British. They often make jokes making fun of sensitive topics speaking their mind openly. Their humour can be cynical and sarcastic. In Central and Southern Italy, jokes can be offensive towards women without any offence intended. Sexism is still ingrained in the Italian culture even if it has gotten better in the last two decades.
  • Online Communication: older generations consider online communication impersonal and limit its use to helping organise face-to-face meetings or interactions. On the other hand, younger generations are more involved in the digital world and are keen users of social media platforms.

Non-Verbal

  • Personal Space: it might feel awkward for people of different cultures to be in close proximity to an Italian when talking. In fact, Italians generally stand less than a metre away from their interlocutor. Avoid moving away as they might think there is something wrong going on.
  • Physical Contact: most of Italians a definitively tactile people, that is the way they express interest and affection. It is very common to see people hugging, kissing, back slapping and hand holding in public. During a conversation it is not unusual to see physical contact used by the interlocutors to show engagement. Friends and family might also walk arm-in-arm in public.
  • Eye Contact: during conversations direct eye contact is expected, however, staring is considered to be rude and can also represent an act of defiance when talking to one’s boss for instance. In small towns, people might stare out of curiosity or to criticise especially the way you are dressed. The latter happens everywhere in Italy. Men use direct eye contact also to show their interest in a woman. See our article how to flirt in Italian https://www.languagesalive.com/how-to-flirt-in-italian/
  • Gestures:there are so many gestures in the Italian body language that this subject deserves a post of its own.

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Raffaella Palumbo

Passionate about languages & good food. I hold a Honours Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish and French, a Master’s degree in Intercultural Communication for Business and Professions and the CLTA teaching certificate. My hobby is chasing the sun around the globe. My favourite quote: “One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way” (Frank Smith)

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