logo  ELT Concourse for learners of English
Concourse 2

Describing emotions


There's more to saying how you or someone else feels than just
He is sad
I am happy
We are very pleased


In this lesson, you will learn how to describe things with more colour and meaning.

exercise To start us off, do this matching exercise to learn (or remind you of) the names of some common emotions.

think That wasn't too difficult.  Here are the names of some more emotions in English.  Look at the example sentences and try to think what the words mean.
Then click on the eye open to see a definition and another example.  Is there a verb from the adjective?
Use a dictionary to check any that you don't know.


She was annoyed / irritated by the noise her neighbours were making in the garden.
eye open
Made angry and upset.
We can also have verbs:
The smell from the factory annoyed / irritated her so she complained.
She was irritated by the noise from the factory.
Before the examination I was apprehensive but I was sure I would pass.
eye open
Made a little worried.
There's no verb so we can use to worry instead:
The test worried me a little at first but it was actually quite easy.
She was apprehensive about taking a long journey alone but she quite enjoyed it in the end.
I am bewildered by the number of possible choices and don't know what to do.
eye open
Very puzzled.
We can also have a verb:
His strange behaviour bewildered me
I was bewildered by his strange behaviour.
He makes me cross when he is rude to people.
eye open
A little angry.
There's no verb so we often use to upset instead:
I upset the teacher because I was late.
The teacher was cross because I was late.
Most people feel a little depressed by grey and cold weather so are happy when the spring comes.
eye open
Sad (sometimes very sad).
This is often a serious medical condition and there are drugs people can take.
There's also a verb:
The death of his mother depressed him badly.
He was depressed for months after losing his job.
She was ecstatic when she won the money.
eye open
Extremely happy.
There's no verb.
She worked very hard so was ecstatic to get such a good degree.
They were envious / jealous of their neighbour's new car and wanted one, too.
eye open
Wanting what someone else has.
There's also a verb but only for one of the adjectives:
They envied her because she was successful.
They were envious / jealous of her success.
She was horrified by the violence in the film and she left before the end
eye open
Very shocked.
There's also a verb:
We were horrified to learn that they were getting a divorce.
Their divorce horrified us.
She was intrigued by the idea and wanted to know lots more about it.
eye open
Made very curious.
There's also a verb:
The book's cover intrigued me so I bought it.
I was intrigued by the book's cover so I bought it.
I used to enjoy holidays by the sea but I feel a bit jaded by the experience now.
It was a good party last night but I feel a bit jaded this morning.

eye open
Very tired or
Bored and with no interest.

There's no verb.
I've eaten so much good food that my appetite's jaded.
It was a long overnight flight and she's feeling jaded.
I was overwhelmed by the offer of a new job and a pay rise and I didn't know what to say.
eye open
Made emotional so that you don't know what to say or do.
There's also a verb:
The museum has so much to see that it overwhelmed me.
I was overwhelmed in the museum because there's so much to see.
Her boss was so rude in the meeting that she was seething.
eye open
Very angry but hiding the feeling.
There's no verb:
By the time he'd finished his stupid statement, I was seething.
There's so much work to do and so little time that I'm feeling really stressed by it all.
eye open
Unable to relax.
There's also a verb:
Too much work and a difficult family life are both stressing me this year.
I'm feeling stressed because of too much work and a difficult family life.
It's an important examination so it's not surprising she's tense.
eye open
Not relaxed.
There's no verb:
I hate flying so I felt a bit tense at the airport.

remember How much can you remember?
Try a test of the examples in the table.


Joining the person to the emotion

Look at some examples:
She felt stressed
They seemed intrigued
They looked sceptical
I was overwhelmed
They made him furious
She appeared jaded

exercise All of these verbs can join the subject (the person) directly to the adjective (the emotion) but one of them is different.  Which one?
Click here when you know.

stronger and weaker

Making the emotion stronger and weaker

Look at these examples:
Making it stronger Making it weaker
I was absolutely intrigued
She was totally horrified
The policeman was extremely irritated
I'm feeling very jaded
She's extremely apprehensive
They are completely overwhelmed
He was wholly shocked
They were slightly intrigued
I was a little horrified
She made the boss a bit furious
I feel somewhat jaded
I felt a tad stressed
They are a touch overwhelmed
He was slightly shocked

The words which make the adjective stronger are called intensifiers and there's a lesson at this level about them.  Click here to go to it now (it opens in a new tab).

The words that make the adjectives weaker are called downtoners.  There are not so many of these.



We do not usually use very with words for strong emotions so we do not say, for example:
She was very furious
They were very appalled
The boss was very seething

but it is OK to use very with other, weaker adjectives:
She was very apprehensive
I was very intrigued
The neighbours were very jealous
The old woman was very irritated

The teacher was very concerned
and so on.
With the strong adjectives, we use a strong intensifier such as:
They were simply furious
We were absolutely appalled
The boss was positively seething

and so on.



We can use a downtoner with most of the emotion adjectives so we can have:
They were a bit depressed
She was slightly irritated
I was somewhat intrigued

and so on
But be careful:
If you use a downtoner with a very strong emotion adjective, you can sound sarcastic!  We also use downtoners in English to make an understatement.  Understatements are often quite strong in English.
I was slightly appalled (probably means you were very upset)
I was a bit horrified (can mean you were very upset, too)
and so on.

It is safer to avoid using downtoners with very strong emotion adjectives.

That's the end of the lesson.  Click here to go back to the lesson index.