Some may think the German language sounds cold or harsh.
I beg to differ!
Deutsch can be a wonderfully expressive language wrought with drama, oozing with emotion and seething with passion.
Those who have read the classic poets Goethe, Schiller and Brecht or listened in on a modern German poetry slam know what I’m talking about.
So let’s get dramatic.
Don’t hold back.
To help you fully express yourself, I’ve put together a tip-top list of German feelings vocabulary, plus top tips on how to learn and use it.
It’s time to talk about your feelings—in German!
Making Sense of Emotion in German
Basics & beyond
Before you peruse our list of handy feelings words below, check out some basic phrases you can use to start expressing your feelings in German–including bonus vocab!
- “Ich fühle mich (I feel)… gut, schlecht, froh, traurig (good, bad, happy, sad)” will get your point across to start.
- Furthermore, you’ll almost never go wrong using “Ich fühle mich/mir geht’s (I’m feeling/I’m)” with most adjectives.
- You’re also good using “Ich habe (I have)… Durst, Kummer, Heimweh (thirst, worry, homesickness)” with a noun.
- You can even resort to “Ich finde das (I find that)… falsch, richtig (wrong, right).
Don’t be afraid to step beyond your basic learner status when it comes to feelings and to start learning new nouns and adjectives right away. Eventually, you’ll want to stock up on new, more advanced words, phrases and constructions, but you’re off to a great start with these basic phrases. Before you know it, you’ll be sounding more and more local!
One fantastic way to immerse yourself in local, native speech—plus start absorbing the cognates, idioms and slang we’ll talk about below—is with FluentU.
Give it a try with the free trial. You’ll start to feel more confident with using everyday German, just the way the natives speak it!
Feeling your way further with cognates, idioms and slang
As with learning any new concept, take your journey with German feelings slow. Ease into the new vocabulary first, then move on to a couple of the ideas in this section if you’re still hungry.
First, try taking advantage of cognates–related words that are common between English and German–like these ones, used in context:
- Ich bin optimistisch. (I’m optimistic.)
- Du bist so negativ. (You’re so negative.)
- Ich fühle mich euphorisch. (I feel euphoric.)
To name a few. Next, try translating expressions you often use in English… and start using ’em in German! (This will be easier once you’ve had a look at our tip-top list below, in which you’ll find some common expressions you probably already use.) Make sure all the German words you choose make sense first, of course, and be careful of idiomatic speech—which if used incorrectly will at least get a laugh.
For example, “You animalistically get on my cookies” just does not work in English, but in German, “Du gehst mir tierisch auf den Keks” is a great idiom to express frustration with someone! Or how about “Du hast wohl den Arsch offen,” or “You plainly have the a** open,” really meaning you’re out of your mind/unreasonable.
That brings us to slang, which can also work well for expressing feelings:
- Ich war total baff! (I was totally perplexed, astounded!)
- Ich bin voll down. (I’m totally down.)
- Mir gehts tip-top! (I feel tip-top/great!)
Indeed, many English words are used in slang, mostly jargon and curse words. So keep your eyes and ears open, and before you know it, you’ll be feeling more comfortable expressing your German feelings.
How to Practice Your Feelings Vocabulary
Hark! The poets
Alas, one would think you’d have to be quite advanced in the language to understand and even utilize elements of the great German poets and literary giants. Looking to set examples, such as quotes, however, is actually a good place to start.
There are short lines of poetic speech that can be easily translated. The content conveys emotion and expression from which you can extract loads of cool little tidbits to add to your repertoire of vocabulary.
Imagine your next German Stammtisch gathering (meet-up of German language learners to practice, often with Germans to help) with you not only impressing with expressing your feelings c/o Goethe, but also seriously progressing towards mastering German–even if not at the advanced level. Simply find a quote you particularly like, memorize it, repeat, and sooner or later the situation to use it will arise.
Take this famous quote from Goethe:
Unsere Wünsche sind Vorgefühle der Fähigkeiten, die in uns liegen. (Our wishes are presentiments of the abilities within us.)
Or how about this odd yet poetic beauty by Schiller:
Der Einfall war kindisch, aber göttlich schön. (The notion was childish, but divinely beautiful.)
Here’s one by Bertolt Brecht:
Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren. (Those who fight, can lose. Those who don’t fight, have already lost.)
It inspired me, in those early days of learning German, to keep on advancing!
Of course, learning quotes not only gives you access to ready-made phrases. It also adds more single words to that invaluable vocabulary cache!
Train your tongue further with exercises by perusing, translating and practicing quotes from the German masters with selections from Zitate.net.
Slam your German
If you’re planning a visit to, or living in, Germany (hands down the best way to learn the lingo), you absolutely must go to a poetry slam. These modern urban poet competitions convey just as much feeling as the classic masters—albeit while often being edgier, urbanite and perhaps more relevant to our world today. Sure, it’s significantly more difficult to understand a live performance often wrought with slang. Nevertheless, it’s a great experience in which something is certain to stick.
You may even catch a German slam in larger cities internationally and in North America–they’ve happened in NYC’s Goethe Institut. To keep up with events like poetry slams and Stammtisch meetings internationally, check out Meetup.com. In the meantime, watch this slam video or this one with subtitles!
16 Tip-top Words to Express Your German Feelings
All right, let’s have a look at our collection of words and examples of how they can be used, changed and exchanged to further your ability in expressing how you feel and your state of mind. Some of these examples don’t necessarily have to do with expressing your feelings, but are there to give you a better understanding of how the words themselves can be used.
1. Langeweile (boredom)
Mir ist langweilig. (I’m bored.)
Ich bin langweilig. (I’m boring.)
Ich habe Langeweile. (I’m bored.)
2. Übel (ill, sick, bad)
Mir ist übel. (I’m ill/feel sick.)
Ich bin übel. (I’m bad.)
Das ist übel. (That’s bad.)
Nimm es mir nicht übel. (Don’t take it the wrong way.)
3. Peinlich (embarrassed)
Mir ist peinlich. (I’m embarrassed.)
Das ist mir peinlich. (That’s embarrassing.)
Ich bin peinlich. (I’m embarrassing.)
Oh, I almost forgot! The first three words above can give you insight into using the nominative/dative constructions correctly in German.
Here’s a short run-down that won’t bore you: Take the word for “bored,” langweilig. “I’m bored” is the simple expression in English. But German also uses the dative construction often to express feelings. In this case, “Mir ist… langweilig.” With the nominative construction describing a state of being, if you said “Ich bin… langweilig,” you’d actually be saying “I’m boring”!
And onwards with some common expressions…
4. Begeisterung (enthusiasm, thrill)
Ich bin begeistert! (I’m thrilled!)
Ich bin ein begeistigter Fußballspieler. (I’m an avid football player.)
5. Sorge (worry, concern)
Ich habe Sorgen. (I’m worried.)
Keine Sorge. (No worries/don’t worry.)
Ich werde dafür sorgen. (I’ll take care of it.)
Danke, Ich bin versorgt. (Thanks, I’m taken care of/provided for.)
6. Geduld (patience)
Ich habe Geduld. (I have patience.)
Ich bin geduldig. (I’m patient.)
7. Elend (misery)
Ich fühle mich elend. (I feel awful.)
Mir ist ganz elend. (I’m completely miserable.)
Ach, du Elender! (Oh, you wretch/poor thing!)
8. Neugier (curiosity)
Ich bin neugierig. (I’m curious.)
Ich platze vor Neugier. (I’m bursting with curiosity/I’m dying to know.)
Sei nicht so neugierig. (Don’t be so nosy.)
9. Aufgefallen (noticed, caught attention)
Es ist mir aufgefallen. (I noticed.)
Ich bin aufgefallen. (I caught attention/was noticed.)
10. Satt (full, satiated)
Ich bin satt. (I’m full.)
Ich habe es satt. (I’m fed-up.)
Ich habe nie satt. (I’m insatiable.)
11. Erleichterung (relief)
Ich bin erleichtert. (I’m relieved.)
Das ist eine Erleichterung. (That’s a relief.)
Das erleichtert viel. (That makes [it] a lot easier.)
12. Laune (mood)
Ich bin bei Laune. (I’m in the mood/a good mood.)
Ich bin nicht gut gelaunt. (I’m not in a good mood.)
Ich bin schlecht gelaunt. (I’m in a rotten mood.)
Ich bin launisch. (I’m moody.)
13. Sehnsucht (longing, craving)
Ich bin sehnsüchtig nach dir. (I’m longing for you.)
Ich habe Sehnsucht nach Eis. (I’m craving ice cream.)
Ich warte sehnsüchtig drauf. (I’m longing for it/I can’t wait.)
14. Verwirrung (confusion, puzzlement)
Ich bin verwirrt. (I’m confused.)
Das ist verwirrend. (That’s puzzling.)
Let’s finish off with a couple really strange yet cool slang words that will definitely turn heads!
15. Griesgrämig (grumpy, grouchy)
Ich bin etwas griesgrämig. (I’m a little grumpy.)
Ich bin doch nicht griesgrämig! (I’m not grouchy!)
16. Fracksausen (fright, horror, terrified)
Ich habe echt Fracksausen! (I’m really terrified!)
Take the intensity one higher and add a juicy adverb into the mix like echt, voll, total, komplett (really, full/fully, totally, completely): “Ich bin echt begeistert!”
You should be really thrilled, because now you can better express yourself—and your feelings—in German!
And One More Thing...
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