How to talk about emotions and feelings in French

How to talk about emotions and feelings in French

by Anne-Lise Vassoille

Updated November 9, 2022

When someone starts to study French, their very first lessons will probably include common phrases like Comment allez-vous ? (How are you?). A little down the line, they may discover how to express their feelings towards something or someone in more detail. Eventually, they’ll learn how to describe themselves, be it their physical appearance and health, or their mood and character. In all those scenarios and many more, they will need to master the vocabulary around emotions in French in order to express themselves.

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Vocabulary lists: Expressing emotions in French

When it comes to feelings, you can either talk about them in a fairly abstract way or in a more pragmatic way – in other words, as a direct reaction to a situation or a mood. You can even consider them as little characters that inhabit your brain and color your life as the animation movie Vice Versa (Inside Out) brilliantly did. Whatever your point of view on emotions, this vocabulary is bound to prove useful.

A list of the main emotions from English to French

Before you can start talking about your general mood, it’s important to first know how to name the main feelings in French. You may already be familiar with some words like l’amour (love), while others like la haine (hate) are best known for being the titles of famous French films. Here is our list of the most important emotions in French.

L’amitié (m)The friendship
L’amour (m)The love
L’affection (f)The affection
Le bonheurThe happiness
Le chagrinThe sorrow
La colèreThe anger
Le dégoût The disgust
Le désespoirThe hopelessness
La douleurThe pain
L’émotion (f)The emotion
L’ennui (m)The boredom
L’envie (f)The urge, the yearning
L’espoir (m)The hope
La fiertéThe pride
La haineThe hate
La honteThe shame
L’humeur (f)The mood
La jalousieThe jealousy
La joieThe joy
La peurThe fear
Le sentimentThe feeling
La tendresseThe tenderness
La tristesseThe sadness

Feeling positive? Find out how to say it in French

If you are de bonne humeur (in a good mood), here are a few useful adjectives in French to express your happy state of mind. To make it easier on you, we have provided both the masculine and the feminine forms of adjectives, whenever relevant.

amoureux/amoureuseIn love

If you’re feeling down, talk it up!

If you are feeling a little bit sorry for yourself, the following words will help you to describe your exact mood.

en colèreangry

It’s all a question of feeling

In French, asking “how are you” is as common, polite and harmless as talking about the weather. It’s often the first question that pops up when you arrive in the office or when you pick up your child at school. Which also makes it one of the first questions you need to learn in French. The following table gives you a few options, with the pronouns “vous” (formal “you” when talking to one person or both formal and informal when talking to more than one person) and “tu” (informal “you” when talking to one person). While the first questions of the table are generic, the last four rows of questions are used when something already seems wrong.

Comment allez-vous ?
Comment vas-tu ? 
How are you?
Comment ça va ?
Ça va ?
How is it going?
Comment vous sentez-vous ?
Comment te sens-tu ?
How are you feeling?
Qu’est-ce qu’il y a ?What’s going on?
Vous ne vous sentez pas bien ?
Tu ne te sens pas bien ?
You’re not feeling well?
Qu’est-ce qui ne va pas ?What’s wrong?
Ça ne va pas ?Is there something wrong?

A short list of French idioms about emotions

It is hardly surprising that such a common topic should have its fair share of idioms. Here are some of the most frequent expressions to say how you feel in French.

French expressionLiteral translationActual meaning
avoir le cafardto have the cockroachto feel blue/down
avoir la pêcheto have the peachto feel great/in top form
casser les pieds à quelqu’unto break the feet to somebodyto get on somebody’s nerve
être bien dans sa peauto be well in one’s skinto feel at ease/comfortable with oneself
être bien luné(e)to be well moonedto be in a good mood
être mal dans sa peauto be bad in one’s skinto be ill-at-ease/uncomfortable with oneself
être mal luné(e)to be badly moonedto be grumpy
ne pas être dans son assiettenot to be in one’s plateto be under the weather

Start saying how you feel with this list of emotions in French 

Learning vocabulary for emotions in French is the first step to learning how to ask and talk about feelings. You may use it as part of your daily greeting, for instance when you check up on your French colleagues in the morning, or to have more in-depth conversations about your state of mind.

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Anne-Lise is a translator and copywriter working for various industries, such as hospitality and travel, as well as health and well-being. Settled down in London since the end of her university years, she cannot get enough of the exceptional cultural life in the English capital city, starting with theater, be it to see a new West End show or to roll up her sleeves with her amateur drama group. She is also interested in photography, as her Instagram profile shows. She indulges her passion for languages in a translation blog she writes with other linguist friends. Go to her Linkedin page to know more about her background and her professional experience.

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