Chinese Feelings: How to Express Your Emotions Like a Native Speaker
As humans, we talk about our emotions all the time.
Whether it’s feelings towards other people, behaviors or inanimate objects, we like to let others know how we feel.
In this post, you’ll learn the Chinese feelings vocabulary you need to describe your emotions with confidence.
- How to Say “Emotion” in Chinese
- Positive Feelings in Chinese
- Negative Feelings in Chinese
- How Native Speakers Actually Express Their Feelings
- Cultural Differences Between Chinese Feelings and Western Emotions
- And One More Thing...
How to Say “Emotion” in Chinese
Here are some of the translations for “feeling” and “emotion.”
Most of these words won’t be relevant to beginners, but they’re great for progressing into the intermediate and advanced language stages, as they add a poetic touch to speech and writing.
|衷情||zhōng qíng||inner emotions|
|感受||gǎn shòu||to sense, to feel, to experience; feeling|
|表情||biǎo qíng||facial expression, expression|
|感情||gǎn qíng||emotion, sentiment, affection; feelings between two people|
|感觉||gǎn jué||to feel; feeling, sense, perception|
|觉得||jué de||to feel; to think|
|心里话||xīn lǐ huà||to express one's true feelings, to express what's on one's mind|
|心声||xīn shēng||thoughts, feelings, inner voice|
|心尖||xīn jiān||bottom of one's heart, innermost feelings|
|情愫||qíng sù||sentiment, feeling|
感觉 or 觉得 are most commonly used when discussing feelings.
To make an “I feel” statement, you could say 我感觉 or 我觉得, followed by any emotion listed.
To say “I am very,” your statement would start with 我很 (wǒ hěn).
You also have the option of removing 很 if you want to say “I am” rather than “I am very.”
Positive Feelings in Chinese
Onto happy things now!
Here are terms to describe your positive emotions. Notice how there are tons of different ways to say “happy” in Chinese.
|开心||kāi xīn||to feel happy; to have a great time|
|高兴||gāo xìng||happy, glad, in a cheerful mood|
|喜滋滋||xǐ zī zī||happy|
|快活||kuài huo||happy, cheerful|
|欣喜||xīn xǐ||happy, joyful|
|宽心||kuān xīn||to feel relieved; to feel relaxed|
|满足||mǎn zú||contented, to be contented, to feel satisfied|
|兴奋||xīng fèn||to be excited|
|恋爱||liàn ài||to be in love|
|惊奇||jīng qí||to be amazed; to be surprised|
To use these terms in sentences, follow the formulas shared above. Here are a couple of examples of how you might express positive emotions.
我很惊奇。(wǒ hěn jīng qí.) — I am so amazed.
我感觉满足。(wǒ gǎn jué mǎn zú.) — I feel content.
我很宽心。(wǒ hěn kuān xīn.) — I am very relieved.
Negative Feelings in Chinese
Not feeling like your best self?
Here are the terms to use when expressing those not-so-positive feelings.
|悲伤||bēi shāng||sad, sorrowful, mournful|
|伤心||shāng xīn||brokenhearted, sad|
|焦急||jiāo jí||anxious, worried, restless|
|累死||lèi sǐ||exhausted, worn out|
|害怕||hài pà||to be afraid, to be scared|
|心寒||xīn hán||to be very disappointed|
|生气||shēng qì||to be angry|
|紧张||jǐn zhāng||nervous, tense|
|尴尬||gān gà||awkward, embarrassed|
|闷闷不乐||mèn mèn bù lè||depressed, unhappy|
Following the formulas above, here are a few sentences you might say when expressing negative emotions.
我累死了。(wǒ lèi sǐle.) — I am exhausted.
我觉得紧张。(wǒ jué dé jǐn zhāng.) — I feel nervous.
我很生气。(wǒ hěn shēng qì.) — I am very angry.
How Native Speakers Actually Express Their Feelings
Again, it’s up to you whether you’d like to share your feelings, given that the context is appropriate and non-offensive for you or the audience. If you want to do as the locals do, then talk about your emotions roundaboutly.
Here’s how you can do that.
Share feelings of love through song
If you’re feeling brave, you can dedicate a Jay Chou love song to your partner at a KTV (a place where you sing karaoke).
You can also go for one of the classic hits from Teresa Teng, such as “The Moon Represents My Heart.” There are a lot of different KTV hits to choose from. There are also many songs on the language learning program FluentU, which has hundreds of videos (not just music videos) paired with learning tools.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Talk about your relationship through proverbs
Rather than simply saying you love someone, take it a step further and use proverbs to describe the relationship.
Was it love at first sight, or 一见钟情 (yí jiàn zhōng qíng)?
Did your significant other stand out from the crowd?
If so, you could say 各花入各眼 (gè huā rù gè yǎn), meaning “Different flowers match different eyes.”
Use number slang
A modern way to express your feelings is through number slang. You can use several different numerical combinations to say “I love you,” but numbers can also reveal feelings of anger or despair.
For example, 555 or 五五五 (wǔ wǔ wǔ) is onomatopoeia for crying in Chinese.
When you’re feeling embarrassed or disappointed, you can exaggerate by saying 514 or 五一四 (wǔ yao sì), which sounds similar to the phrase 我要死 (wǒ yào sǐ) meaning “I want to die.”
Cultural Differences Between Chinese Feelings and Western Emotions
While many people like to wear their emotions on their sleeves, Chinese people share their feelings a little more subtly.
Let’s discuss cultural differences before you accidentally share too much sentiment in Chinese.
Western cultures are more vocal about their feelings
Americans and people from other Western cultures tend to be individualistic, often looking for ways to stand out.
Because of this stronger focus on the self, Westerns feel less inhibited in expressing their desires and feelings and value qualities like honesty and straightforwardness.
This differs drastically from Chinese and other Eastern cultures centered around collectivism and societal perception.
Eastern cultures believe in suppressing feelings
Regarding affection, Chinese and Asians aren’t so big on saying, “I love you.”
It’s more common to show feelings of love through actions, such as holding hands and cuddling. In the East, actions speak louder than words.
They might also show emotions, rather than verbally communicating, by using facial expressions or changing their intonation while speaking.
Overtly expressing positive or negative feelings is just not very common in Chinese culture.
To express or not to express your emotions in Chinese
Emotions are like data—they communicate meaning and intent.
However, with seemingly opposing cultural beliefs between the East and the West, it might not be very clear for you as an English speaker to know whether it’s okay to talk about your feelings in Chinese.
When talking among friends, you can express positive and negative feelings.
But it’s best to refrain from sharing negative sentiments when speaking with acquaintances, elders or in your place of work if you work with Chinese speakers. Expressing negative emotions could cause you to lose face—a Chinese cultural no-no.
Again, if you have positive feelings, don’t be afraid to share them. Besides, no one ever lost face by expressing their happiness or excitement.
Chinese people like communicating feelings through actions, including body language and thoughts.
So while you can use “I feel” statements, you can also express your excitement, anger, affection or frustration through your voice.
We all might speak different languages, but intonation can be understood across all cultures.
And One More Thing...
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