chinese feelings

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

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 qínginner emotions
感受 gǎn shòuto sense, to feel, to experience; feeling
表情 biǎo qíngfacial expression, expression
感情 gǎn qíngemotion, sentiment, affection; feelings between two people
感觉 gǎn juéto feel; feeling, sense, perception
觉得 jué deto feel; to think
心里话xīn lǐ huàto express one's true feelings, to express what's on one's mind
心声 xīn shēngthoughts, feelings, inner voice
心尖 xīn jiānbottom of one's heart, innermost feelings
情愫 qíng sùsentiment, 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

chinese feelings

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 xīnto feel happy; to have a great time
高兴 gāo xìnghappy, glad, in a cheerful mood
喜滋滋 xǐ zī zīhappy
快活 kuài huohappy, cheerful
欣喜 xīn xǐhappy, joyful
宽心 kuān xīnto feel relieved; to feel relaxed
满足 mǎn zúcontented, to be contented, to feel satisfied
兴奋 xīng fènto be excited
恋爱 liàn àito be in love
惊奇 jīng qíto 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

chinese feelings

Not feeling like your best self?

Here are the terms to use when expressing those not-so-positive feelings.

悲伤 bēi shāngsad, sorrowful, mournful
伤心 shāng xīnbrokenhearted, sad
焦急 jiāo jíanxious, worried, restless
累死 lèi sǐexhausted, worn out
害怕 hài pàto be afraid, to be scared
心寒 xīn hánto be very disappointed
生气 shēng qìto be angry
紧张 jǐn zhāngnervous, tense
尴尬 gān gàawkward, embarrassed
闷闷不乐 mèn mèn bù lèdepressed, 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.

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.

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