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Expressing Emotions in Spanish

How do we talk about our emotions in Spanish? Although there are many different ways, this lesson will focus on three main categories of words that are typically used to express the whole range of emotions in Spanish while covering some of the major emotions in Spanish we might wish to talk about. 

 

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The Three Main Ways of Talking About Emotions in Spanish 

The three main word categories for talking about our emotions in Spanish are adjectives, reflexive verbs, and nouns. Let's take a closer look at some tendencies of each of these three parts of speech when describing emotions in Spanish.

 

1. Adjectives

Remember that adjectives modify, or describe, nouns, and to name a few simple ones in Spanish, we could take contento/a(s) (happy), triste(s) (sad), and enojado/a(s) (angry). As always, such emotional adjectives must agree with the noun they modify in terms of number and gender. You will note that the adjectives that describe emotions in Spanish are commonly used in conjunction with particular verbs, such as estar (to be), sentir (to feel), ponerse (to become/get), or quedarse (to become/get), to name a few. So, "Estoy contento," for example, would mean: "I'm happy."

 

 

2. Reflexive Verbs

Reflexive verbs in Spanish actually convey the action of feeling a certain emotion in and of themselves. As an example, since enojarse means "to get angry," one could say simply "Me enojé" (I got angry) in lieu of using an adjective/verb combination like "Me puse enojado," which conveys the same thing. 

 

 

3. Nouns

As a third option, nouns like tristeza (sadness) are additionally employed to talk about emotions in Spanish. Among others, one common manner of doing so is with the word "Qué..." in fixed expressions like, "¡Qué tristeza!" which literally means, "What sadness!" (but would be more commonly expressed in English with an expression like "How sad!"). Verbs like sentir (to feel) or tener (to have) are also commonly used with such emotional nouns in sentences such as "Siento mucha alegría" ("I feel really happy," or, more literally, "I feel a lot of happiness").

 

Conveying Common Emotions in Spanish

With these categories in mind, let's learn a plethora of ways to express the gamut of common emotions in Spanish. 

 

1. HAPPINESS

 

Adjectives: 

Adjectives that mean "happy" include feliz/felices, contento/a(s), and alegre(s). Let's take a look at some examples of these words in context along with some of the aforementioned verbs:

 

pues, que yo creo que él sí quiere formalizar algo conmigo y yo estoy muy feliz.

well, I think that he does want to formalize something with me, and I'm very happy.

Captions 40-41, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capítulo 5 - Part 9

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y, pues, me siento muy contento de que lo... lo pude lograr.

and well, I feel very happy that I... I was able to achieve it.

Caption 27, Rueda de la muerte Parte 1

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Y estoy alegre, alegre de que no sea cierto.

And I'm happy, happy it's not true.

Caption 31, Chus recita poemas Neruda y Pizarnik

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Remember that the verb estar is used to talk about emotions in Spanish rather than the verb ser because emotions tend to be temporary rather than permanent. That said, if someone (or something) permanently embodies a particular emotional attribute (e.g. a "happy person"), the verb ser can be used because this emotion becomes a trait, as in the following example: 

 

La Vela se caracteriza además por ser un pueblo alegre,

La Vela is also characterized as being a happy town,

Captions 16-17, Estado Falcón Locos de la Vela - Part 1

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Reflexive Verbs: 

Moving on to the verb category, a common reflexive verb that expresses the idea of "cheering up" or "getting" or "being happy" or "glad" is alegrarse. Let's see some examples of this verb:

 

Qué bien; me alegro de que estén aquí.

How great; I'm glad you're here.

Caption 42, Club 10 Capítulo 1 - Part 2

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A tal punto que yo me alegré mucho, mucho, cuando supe que ibas a pasar veinticinco años en la cárcel.

To the point that I felt very happy, very, when I found out you were going to spend twenty-five years in prison.

Captions 56-57, Yago 14 La peruana - Part 1

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Nouns:

Lastly, we will deal with the corresponding nouns that mean "happiness" or "joy": (la) alegría and (la) felicidad.

 

Ay, bueno, Don Ramiro, de verdad, qué alegría escuchar eso.

Oh, well, Mister Ramiro, really, what a joy to hear that.

Caption 33, Tu Voz Estéreo Laura - Part 10

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While "what a joy" was translated a bit more literally here, it could also be a rough equivalent of "how great" (to hear that) or, of course, "I'm so happy" (to hear that). Let's look at one more example:

 

Hasta el sábado, amiga. ¡Qué felicidad!

See you Saturday, my friend. [I'm] so happy!

Caption 83, Cleer y Lida Conversación telefónica - Part 1

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Again, while "What happiness!" would be the literal translation of "¡Qué felicidad!" in English, you will note that this and many of our other examples of expressions with the word "Qué" plus an emotional noun have been translated slightly differently to reflect what an English speaker might say in a similar situation. 

 

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2. EXCITEMENT

 

Adjectives: 

"Excitement" might be looked upon as an extension of happiness, and adjectives like emocionado/a(s) (excited) or entusiasmado/a(s) (excited/enthusiastic) express this in Spanish:

 

Estoy tan emocionado de volver a verte.

I am so excited to see you again.

Caption 53, Yago 11 Prisión - Part 3

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Ehm... Mi amor, estás muy entusiasmado con todo esto. -Mmm.

Um... My love, you're very enthusiastic about all this. -Mmm.

Caption 7, Yago 10 Enfrentamientos - Part 4

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Reflexive Verbs:

As you might have guessed, the verbs for "to be/get excited" are emocionarse and entusiasmarse

 

Ya me emocioné.

I already got excited.

Caption 22, Alan x el mundo Mi playa favorita de México! - Part 1

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¿Por qué no entusiasmarnos más?

Why not get more excited?

Caption 14, Natalia de Ecuador Consejos: haciendo amigos como adultos

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Nouns:

Although the noun (la) emoción can indeed mean "emotion," it can also mean "excitement":

 

Entonces... -¡Qué emoción! Qué emoción, y después... ¡oh!, ¿sí?

So... -How exciting! How exciting, and afterward... oh, really?

Captions 31-32, Clase Aula Azul La segunda condicional - Part 2

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That said, while emocionado/a(s)emocionarse, and "¡Qué emoción!" can also be used to talk about "being moved" with emotion, context should usually let you know the speaker's intention. 

 

 

3. SADNESS

 

Adjectives:

Triste(s) is undoubtedly the most common adjective that means "sad" in Spanish:

 

nos dimos cuenta [de] que mi barco estaba partido. Candelario se puso triste

we realized my boat was split. Candelario got sad.

Captions 43-44, Guillermina y Candelario El Gran Rescate

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Reflexive Verbs:

The reflexive verb entristecerse, on the other hand, means "to get" (or "feel" or "be" or "become," etc.) "sad":

 

La alumna se entristeció mucho al saber que se había fallecido su maestro. 

The student became really sad when she found out that her teacher had passed away. 

 

Nouns:

The noun (la) tristeza literally means "sadness," but is utilized along with "Qué" to say, "How sad":

 

Qué tristeza, ¿no? Terrible.

How sad, right? Terrible.

Caption 5, Tu Voz Estéreo Feliz Navidad - Part 19

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4. ANGER

 

Adjectives:

While there are a lot of adjectives that mean "angry" or "mad" in Spanish, the two most common standard (rather than slang) ones are probably enojado/a(s) and enfadado/a(s). Let's take a look:

 

¿Qué te pasa? ¿Estás enojado conmigo? No, no estoy enojado, estoy cansado. Estoy cansado, ¿OK? 

What's going on with you? Are you mad at me? No, I'm not mad, I'm tired. I'm tired, OK?

Captions 42-43, Muñeca Brava 48 - Soluciones - Part 3

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Estamos muy enfadadas. Estoy muy enfadada.

We are very angry. I am very angry.

Captions 30-31, El Aula Azul Estados de ánimo

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Reflexive Verbs:

By extension, verbs that mean "to get mad" or "angry" include enojarse and enfadarse, although there are many more:

 

Se enojó muchísimo con el viejo

She got really angry with my old man

Caption 86, Muñeca Brava 2 Venganza - Part 6

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No me enfadé con él, ni le insulté,

I didn't get mad at him, nor did I insult him,

Captions 78-79, Cortometraje Beta - Part 1

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Nouns:

There are a lot of nouns that refer to anger in Spanish, and we bet you guessed two of them: (el) enojo and (el) enfado. Others include (la) ira, (la) rabia, and (la) bronca. Although it is not as common to hear these words in expressions with "Qué..." as some of the other nouns we have talked about, we can give you some examples of how a couple of these words are used to express anger in captions from our Yabla Spanish library:

 

Lo que yo sentía en ese momento era algo mucho más profundo que un enfado.

What I felt at that moment was something way deeper than anger.

Caption 81, Cortometraje Beta - Part 1

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porque claro, alguna vez siento mucha rabia y no me gusta sentir tanta rabia

because of course, sometimes I feel a lot of rage and I don't like feeling so much rage

Captions 42-43, Escribiendo un libro Algunos consejos sobre cómo comenzar - Part 1

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For a lot of additional standard and slangy manners of talking about anger, feel free to refer to this lesson on expressing feelings of tiredness or anger in Spanish. 

 

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5. SURPRISE

 

Adjectives:

Let's start with the adjective that means "surprised": sorprendido/a(s).

 

Profesores, la verdad es que me he quedado sorprendida

Professors, the truth is that I have been surprised;

Caption 19, Alumnos extranjeros del Tec de Monterrey

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Reflexive Verbs:

The reflexive verb that means "to be" or "to get surprised" is sorprenderse:

 

Es que... me sorprendí, querida. -¿Por qué?

It's just that... I was surprised, dear. -Why?

Caption 65, Muñeca Brava 18 - La Apuesta - Part 11

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Nouns:

And finally, the noun (la) sorpresa can be used with "Qué" to say "How surprising" or "What a surprise": 

 

Qué sorpresa. -Qué... Vale, qué lindo verte.

What a surprise. -What... Vale, how nice to see you.

Caption 15, Español para principiantes Saludos y encuentros

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6. DISAPPOINTMENT

 

Adjectives:

The common Spanish adjectives decepcionado/a(s) and desilusionado/s(s) both mean "disappointed":

 

Mi novia está desilusionado conmigo por haberle mentido.

My girlfriend is disappointed in me for having lied to her. 

 

No. Estoy decepcionada. ¿De mí? ¿Y por qué estás decepcionada?

No. I'm disappointed. In me? And why are you disappointed?

Captions 61-63, Muñeca Brava 41 La Fiesta - Part 6

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Reflexive Verbs:

Naturally, the verbs decepcionarse and desilusionarse mean "to get" or "be disappointed." Let's take a look at them in context:

 

Me decepcioné mucho cuando suspendí el examen. 

I was really disappointed when I failed the test. 

 

Nada. Tengo qué sé yo, miedo a desilusionarme, va.

Nothing. I have, I don't know, a fear of being disappointed, well.

Caption 38, Muñeca Brava 39 Verdades - Part 5

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Nouns:

So, of course, "Qué desilusión" or "Qué decepción" would be "How disappointing" or "What a disappointment":

 

Qué decepción.

What a disappointment.

Caption 82, Los casos de Yabla Problemas de convivencia - Part 3

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Digo, personalmente no, no, no fue una desilusión porque viste, que cuando sos chico las pérdidas son diferentes. 

I mean, personally it wasn't a disappointment because you know, when you are a kid, losses are different.

Captions 48-49, Biografía Natalia Oreiro - Part 2

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Note that "No fue una desilusiónmight also have been translated as "I wasn't disappointed" in this context. 
 

 

7. WORRY/ANXIETY/STRESS

Let's conclude today's lesson by talking about some more of what might be considered sentimientos negativos (negative feelings) in Spanish: worry, anxiety, and stress.

 

Adjectives:

Adjectives like preocupado/a(s)(worried), estresado/a(s) ("stressed" or "stressed out"), ansioso/a(s) (anxious), or nervioso/a(s), which often means "restless," "anxious," etc. in addition to "nervous," can be used to describe those unpleasant sensations in Spanish. Let's look at some examples:

 

Entonces, cuando usted sufra una infección fuerte o esté preocupado o estresado

So, when you get a strong infection or are worried or stressed,

Captions 35-36, Los médicos explican Consulta con el médico: herpes

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Le noto un poco nervioso, ¿le pasa algo? -No, no, no...

I notice you're a bit on edge, is something wrong with you? -No, no, no...

Caption 9, Muñeca Brava 33 El partido - Part 6

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¿Hay algún pensamiento o algo que le mantenga a usted ansioso o desde cuándo... o algo que haya desencadenado todos estos problemas?

Is there some thought or something that keeps you anxious or from which... or something that has triggered all these problems?

Captions 32-33, Los médicos explican Diagnóstico: nervios y estrés

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Reflexive Verbs:

The reflexive verb preocuparse means "to worry," while estresarse means "to stress" or "get stressed out," etc.:

 

¿De verdad se preocupa por mi seguridad? Claro que sí me preocupo.

Do you really worry about my safety? Of course I worry.

Captions 36-37, Muñeca Brava 48 - Soluciones - Part 3

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un día tengo que pagar uno, otro día otro, y eso, la... la gente se estresa.

one day I have to pay one, another day another one, and that... people get stressed out.

Caption 67, Cuentas claras Sobreviviendo enero - Part 2

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Nouns:

The corresponding nouns for the verbs and adjectives we have talked about are: (la) preocupación (worry), (el) estrés (stress), (los) nervios (nerves), and (la) ansiedad (anxiety), which can be used in sentences in infinite ways to describe these nerve-wracking sensations. For example, we might say "¡Qué nervios!" or "¡Qué estrés!" to say something like "I'm so nervous/anxious!" or "How stressful!"/"I'm so stressed out!" Let's look at some additional examples of these nouns with the verbs tener (to have) and sentir (to feel):

 

Últimamente tengo mucho estrés y estar un poco en la naturaleza es muy bueno.

Lately, I've been really stressed out, and it's great to be in nature a bit.

Captions 68-69, Cleer y Lida Picnic

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Siento ansiedad, la necesidad de contar quién soy

I feel anxiety, the need to tell who I am

Caption 2, Monsieur Periné Mi libertad

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You will note that while the literal translation of the first example would be "I have a lot of stress," "I've been really stressed out" may be the more likely equivalent for English speakers in this context. On the other hand, while the translator opted for the more literal "I feel anxiety" in the second example, "I feel anxious" would also be a viable option in English. For additional insight into how to discuss anxiety and stress in Spanish, we recommend the video Diagnóstico: nervios y estrés (Diagnosis: Nerves and Stress) from our series Los médicos explican (The Doctors Explain).

 

We have covered a multitude of emotions in Spanish, and videos like this one from our Curso de español  [Spanish Course] series about Expresiones de sentimientos [Expressions of Feelings] and this one on Estados de Ánimo [Moods] by El Aula Azul can help you to express many more. And while most of the feelings we have talked about are pretty clearly negative or positive, the video Ni bien ni mal [Neither Good nor Bad] can help us to talk about some of those so-so emotions in Spanish. Are there any other feelings or emotions you'd like to learn to speak about in Spanish? Don't forget to let us know in your suggestions and comments

 

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Describing People in Spanish with the Verb Ser

In this lesson, we will learn how to describe people in Spanish using the verb ser (to be). In particular, we'll focus on five different uses of the verb ser that you can use to identify and describe people. Let's take a look.

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To identify someone

 

Eh... Luis, ella es mi mamá, mamá, él es Luis.

Um... Luis, this is my mom, Mom, this is Luis.

Y ella es mi abuela Carmen.

And this is my Grandma Carmen.

Captions 18-19, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 4

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It's worth mentioning that the example above shows a very common way to introduce people in Spanish.

 

To indicate the gender of a person

 

Es un hombre que se dedica a lo que yo hago.

He's a man who devotes himself to what I do.

Caption 61, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa - Capítulo 4

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To state someone's nationality

 

Paul es estadounidense, de los Estados Unidos.

Paul is American, from the United States.

Caption 16, Carlos explica - Geografía y gentilicios

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To indicate somebody's job

 

Mi padre es arquitecto

My father is an architect

Caption 25, Leif - El Arquitecto Español y su Arte

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To talk about physical traits

In particular, when we refer to essential traits, such as height, weight, and physical appearance.

 

Es bajo, es gordo.

He's short, he's fat.

Caption 33, El Aula Azul - Mis Primos

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Alguien que es delgado tiene poco peso.

Someone who is skinny doesn't weigh much.

Captions 32-33, Lecciones con Carolina - Adjetivos - Descripción de personas - Físico

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Carolina tiene treinta y cinco años

Carolina is thirty-five years old

pero parece que tiene veinte.

but she looks like she is twenty.

Es muy guapa.

She's very pretty.

Captions 2-4, El Aula Azul - Mis Primos

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To describe someone's personality

 

Ellos son muy majos. Mi prima Marta es muy simpática.

They are very nice. My cousin Marta is very nice.

Caption 8, El Aula Azul - Mi familia

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Ricardo es muy... es muy tranquilo, ¿viste?

Ricardo is very... he's very calm, you know?

Caption 84, Biografía - Natalia Oreiro

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Porque mi mamá es una persona muy difícil.

Because my mom is a very difficult person.

-Eso a mí no me importa.

-That doesn't matter to me.

Caption 20, Yago - 10 Enfrentamientos

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That's it for today. Can you describe someone you know using the verb ser? We invite you to try it out and don't forget to send us your comments and suggestions. ¡Hasta la próxima!

That Fancy Spanish...

If you have spent some time learning and listening Spanish, you have probably noticed that many common Spanish words have cognates in the fancy English vocabulary. This happens because Spanish is a romance language, that is, a language that directly evolved from vulgar Latin (and was even later enriched with classic Latin during the Middle ages when Spanish became a written language), while approximately only 29% of the English vocabulary comes from Latinate sources.

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That's the reason why it's very common for a Spanish speaker to use verbs like estrangular (to choke) or canícula(dog days, midsummer heat) in everyday speech. In fact, similar words exist in English (to strangulate and canicule) but they are cultisms that are way too fancy to be used in everyday situations. On the other hand, and quite surprisingly, very often using these words is the only alternative you have to express something in Spanish. That's the case for estrangular (to strangulate, to choke) and canícula (doy days); really, there is no better, more common way to express such ideas in Spanish than using those words.

Words that are used to describe diseases and medical terms in Spanish are also great examples. In Spanish it's common to say (and make the distinction between) el oculista (oculist) and el optometrista (optometrist), while an expression like "el doctor de ojos" (the Eye doctor) may be understood, but sounds very much like toddler talking to Spanish speakers. And there are even stranger examples, some of which may sound like tongue twisters for you. Take for example the common otorrinolaringólogo (ear nose and throat doctor, otorhinolaryngologist). But let's try to find examples from our catalog.

In Spanish, the verb aliviar means either "to get better" or "to cure," or "to alleviate" and it's just as common as the verb curar (to cure). In English the verb to alleviate is much more fancy, and it's only used in certain contexts, usually very formal or written speech:
 

Estoy enfermo, espérense a que me alivie.

I'm sick; wait until I get better.

Caption 19, El Ausente - Acto 1 - Part 2

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The nouns cicatriz (scar) and cicatrización (scar healing) as well as the verb cicatrizar (to heal a scar) are common in Spanish, while "cicatrix," "to cicatrize" or "cicatrization" are less common in English:
 

Tiene la cicatriz, vivió en Misiones y tiene la misma sonrisa de Franco.

He has the scar, he lived in Misiones and he has the same smile as Franco.

Caption 16, Yago - 10 Enfrentamientos - Part 4

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The adjetives primordial  and esencial are both commonly used in Spanish, usually as synonyms. English, on its part, does have the word "primordial," but the use of "essential" is more common in everyday speech:
 

Es importante, primordial, muy necesario.

It's important, essential, very necessary.

Caption 3, Bersuit Vergarabat - EPK - Part 2

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Another example is the word subterráneo ("subterranean", but most commonly "underground"):
 

Contaminación de las aguas superficiales o subterráneas

Pollution of surface and underground waters

Caption 7, 3R - Campaña de reciclaje - Part 2

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In Spanish the word docente is both an adjective meaning "teacher-related" and a noun that is synonymous with maestro (teacher). It's a common word in and it's used in many Spanish expressions. In contrast, the English word docent is far less common and, it has a slightly different meaning
 

Es más, es que no se entiende la labor docente de otra manera.

Moreover, the thing is that the teaching job should not be understood in any other way.

Caption 13, Club de las ideas - La motivación

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The list goes on and on. Let's see one more example. In Spanish it's common to use the noun equilibrio (balance) and the verb equilibrar (to balance), both words are just as common as balance (balance) and balancear ("to balance", but also "to swing"). In contrast, English reserves the use of "equilibrium" and "to equilibrate" for scientific or highbrow language.  

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Tú eres todo lo que me equilibra.

You're everything that balances me.

Caption 28, Calle 13 - Un Beso De Desayuno

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Vocabulary

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