How to express emotions and feelings

How are you feeling today?

I’m feeling happy.

What kind of happy?

Um…very happy.

Why are you feeling very happy?

I’m feeling very happy because the sun is shining.

Do you ever feel you should be using other words, apart from happy, sad etc?

If you want to speak better English, you need to expand your vocabulary and one of the best ways to expand your vocabulary is by talking about how you are feeling.

It’s human nature to express and share how we are feeling.. One of the most common questions in any language is ‘How are you?’ which we use because we want to tell people how we feel and because we want to know how other people are feeling.

This is a great chart for expanding your vocabulary to describe emotions and feelings. This is particularly suitable for students who have a B2 (Upper-Intermediate) level or above.



Start in the inner circle where you can find 6 basic emotional states:

happy / sad / disgust / anger / fear / surprise

The middle circle shows you different types of happiness, sadness, disgust, anger, fear and surprise, ranging from mild emotions (not so strong) such as bored to intense emotions (much stronger) such as despair.

The outer circle provides you with two synonyms (words with a similar but not exactly the same meaning) for the emotional states in the middle circle.

A simple way to start learning some of these words is to choose a basic emotion, such as happy.

Look at one of the words in the middle circle relating to a specific type of happiness and check the meaning in your dictionary. Don’t forget to practise the pronunciation and check which syllable is stressed.


adjective     /ˌɒp.tɪˈmɪs.tɪk/   /ˌɑːp.tə-/

hoping or believing that good things will happen in the future:

She is optimistic about her chances of winning a gold medal.

Then, write your own example sentence using the new word. In order to make the example sentence memorable, write a sentence about yourself or somebody you know personally.

I was optimistic about my chances of passing the English speaking exam because I had studied hard for it.

Don’t try to learn too many new words everyday: 5 should be enough.

After learning a new word, make sure you review the meaning an hour or two after learning it. Then, review it again the next day. See if you can produce a sentence without referring to your example.

When you have learned a few of these words for each emotion, choose an emotion at random and ask yourself the question:

Why am I feeling …………… today?

By creating reasons for each emotion, you will be creating a memorable context, which will help transfer the word from your short-term to your long-term memory.

When learning new vocabulary, we need to store the word in our short-term memory first. We can do this by repeating the meaning several times (make sure you create a memorable context).

Short-term memory: repeat to remember

However, this word will soon disappear from our short-term memory so we need to transfer it to our long-term memory. we can do this by reviewing the meaning at regular intervals after we have first learnt it.

A few hours after learning it.

The next day.

A few days later.

A week later.

A month later.

Long-term memory: remember to repeat.

So, next time somebody asks you how you are feeling, you can have this type of conversation:

How are you feeling today?

I’m feeling happy.

What kind of happy?

I’m feeling positive.

Why are you feeling positive?

I’m feeling positive because the sun is shining and I’m learning new words in English every day.

Tell me how you are feeling today.