Say What You Feel: 15 Advanced English Phrases for Expressing Emotions

Advanced English phrases allow you to express yourself more fully.

In this post, we’ll explain how you can recognize the key elements of advanced English phrases that’ll help you talk about emotions—and practically anything else—in a precise, engaging way.

Then, we’ll show you 15 specific advanced English phrases you can add to your toolbox right away.


Key Elements of Advanced English Phrases for Emotions

Many English learners have a habit of building their vocabularies one word at a time. This may seem useful when you’re a beginner. However, as you advance, you’ll realize it’s not efficient. Recognizing phrases and linguistic (language) patterns will help you become fluent much faster.

This is especially true when expressing emotion. There are a lot of emotion-related phrases that can be confusing if you try to break them into their individual words. Understanding the key elements that typically make up these expressions will help you remember new advanced phrases faster; it’ll also help you from getting totally lost when you encounter new expressions in your English reading or speech.

Something that is also difficult when understanding English phrases is the surrounding context. A simple phrase such as “I’m sorry” in English can express regret, sympathy or can even be used before asking an embarrassing or difficult question.

Thus, it is essential to understand the context and how it changes a specific phrase when learning English phrases for emotions. For example, check out the video below to see how expressions and phrases related to “I’m sorry” can change depending on the context.

Immersing yourself in English from home is incredibly helpful for learning cultural context. You could also make use of a virtual immersion program for additional structure. FluentU, for example, teaches English with videos pulled from all corners of mass media, and combines them with interactive subtitles to help you understand nuanced meaning and adaptive review quizzes to ensure you remember what you’re learning. 

In the meantime, here are some of those key elements to look out for:


Many English expressions for emotions rely on idioms. Idioms can seem nonsensical at first, but once you’re familiar with them, they allow you to express a lot of information in just a few words.

Some idioms and expressions come with elaborate background stories. Take “Catch-22” as an example.

This idiom comes from Joseph Heller’s novel of the same name. In the book, an army psychiatrist uses the term to explain the regulations that made it impossible for pilots to be excused from flying dangerous missions. The pilots need to be declared insane in order to be excused from service, but any pilot who wants to be excused from these harrowing (troubling and distressing) missions must be sane. So there’s no escape.

English speakers have since used this phrase when they refer to a dilemma or a paradoxical situation, or a situation from which there’s no escape because the rules contradict each other.

So, two words and you have the whole story. Amazing, right?

If you agree, then check out these guides that’ll help you become an English idiom pro:

Some idioms to look for in the list of emotional phrases below include “fool’s paradise” and “butterflies in your stomach.”


A collocate is a word that is habitually juxtaposed (put next to) another word. It means certain combinations of words appear more frequently than others, making them sound more natural.

For example, the word “impact” is regularly found in the collocation “make an impact.” You wouldn’t hear a native speaker say “invent an impact,” even though both “make” and “invent” have similar meanings. There’s also the word “create,” another similar word to “make” and “invent,” which is only sometimes used alongside the word “impact.”

Thus, in comparison:

  • If you were to write the phrase “make an impact,” your text would read effortlessly.
  • If you wrote “invent an impact,” people might still understand what you meant. However, it doesn’t flow and most would mark this as an incorrect usage if you were taking a test.
  • If you used “create an impact,” some readers might stop and consider if there’s anything special about this impact. Is the effect unique? Is it that no one else ever “creates” such an impact and this is the first of its kind?


You’ll find collocations in the list of emotional phrases below (for example: “grief-stricken,” “flying high”). Memorizing these word pairings will quickly make your English sound much more natural.

If you want to learn more about collocation, you can start with a good online dictionary or acquire a decent reference book, such as “A Dictionary of Active Fluency Combinations” or the “Shortcut to English Collocations.”

Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs are a great tool for learning advanced English expressions, as they allow you to describe many different actions or states of being simply by combining one word with different prepositions.

Take the word stand (to be in an upright position). You’ve probably studied this word from the very beginning. You probably also know your prepositions: against, aside, at, by, for, in, over, etc. Just put them together, and you have:

  • stand against (oppose)
  • stand aside (resign)
  • stand by/with [someone or something] (support [someone or something])
  • stand for (signify)

You can see how these simple combinations can help you easily expand your vocabulary without having to make a whole new set of vocabulary flashcards.

Phrasal verbs can commonly be found in expressions regarding emotion. You might get carried away (absorbed, overly excited) by a movie you love. A frustrating situation at work might get to (bother) you, or you might get over it (cease to be bothered by it).

15 Advanced English Phrases for Better Expressing Emotions

Now that you know how to recognize the building blocks of advanced English phrases, here are some great expressions you can use when describing emotions. These phrases are organized by the emotion they represent.


1. Flying high

Meaning: very happy.

She’s flying high after the successful product launch.

2. Pumped up

Meaning: very excited about something.

He’s pumped up for his first half-marathon race this weekend.

3. Fool’s paradise

Meaning: a situation when someone is happy because they’re ignoring a problem or fail to realize its existence.

He’s been living in fool’s paradise since he started trading stocks, expecting to make millions even though he doesn’t have investing experience.


4. Be down in the dumps

Meaning: to feel unhappy or without hope.

I always feel down in the dumps when I go back to work after a long weekend.

5. Be at the end of your rope (American); Be at the end of your tether (British)

Meaning: to feel very upset because you’re no longer able to deal with a difficult situation.

Helen is at the end of her rope after looking for a job for months without any luck.

6. Grief-stricken

Meaning: extremely sad.

After his partner died in a car accident, he was left grief-stricken.


7. Bite someone’s head off

Meaning: to respond with anger to someone.

I just asked one question to confirm his request, and my boss bit my head off.

8. Black mood

Meaning: to be irritable, angry or depressed.

She’s scared to ask for a day off as her boss is in a black mood today.

9. Drive up the wall

Meaning: to annoy or irritate someone.

His constant whining drove me up the wall, so I left.


10. Have/get/feel butterflies in your stomach

Meaning: to feel very nervous or excited about something that you have to do, especially something important.

I’m going to have the first meeting with a big client tomorrow, and I’m feeling butterflies in my stomach.

11. Afraid of your own shadow

Meaning: very easily frightened.

After reading “Dracula,” she became afraid of her own shadow.

12. Petrified of

Meaning: extremely frightened, especially so that you cannot move or decide what to do.

In the “Harry Potter” series, Ron Weasley is petrified of spiders.


13. Feel out of it

Meaning: to not feel in a state of one’s normal mind.

He just woke up from a night of heavy drinking and felt so out of it.

14. Puzzle over

Meaning: to think carefully about someone or something for a long time and try to understand them.

I puzzled over the assignment for a few days before I decided to ask my professor for clarification.

15. Ambivalent about

Meaning: feeling two different things about someone or something at the same time, for example, that you like them and dislike them.

He’s ambivalent about quitting his job to start his own business; he wants his freedom, but there are risks.


Advanced English phrases provide you with the flexibility to get your messages across and the chance to impress native speakers and potential employers. Start with these 15 expressions to let your family, friends, colleagues or even strangers know exactly how you feel.

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