Russian Language Blog

A little more about feelings… Posted by on Jun 25, 2013 in language

A couple weeks ago, we looked at some basic “emotion” terms in Russian — how to express that you’re “Feeling Glad, Sad, or Mad.” This time, we’ll round out that list with a few more feelings. To continue the rhyming theme, let’s talk about how to say, um…

“Feelin’ Bad,
Or Like a Cad,
Or a Trifle Ad-

Okay, so I’m out of good rhymes. But anyway, in the previous post I mentioned the verb испытывать/испытать, “to experience,” as a rather generic way to express that one feels a particular emotion — она испытывала радость, “She experienced joy.” The verb страдать, “to suffer,” is also fairly generic in that it can describe страдание, “suffering”, of many different kinds, both emotional and physical. The cause of the suffering is often rendered with от чего-нибудь (genitive), as in Ребёнок страдает от одиночества, “The child suffers from loneliness.” It can also be expressed with чем-нибудь (instrumental), especially when talking about physical ailments:

Наш дедушка страдает повышенным кровяным давлением.
Our grandfather suffers from high blood pressure.

Colloquially, by the way, you can shorten this to Он страдает давлением — it’ll be perfectly well understood that давление, “pressure,” here means hypertension of the blood, in the same way that “The child has a temperature” actually means “He’s got a fever.”

And now let’s consider some specific emotions that a person can “suffer from”:

Jealousy and Envy

Ревность is “jealousy” in the sense of сомнение в верности (“doubt regarding the faithfulness”) of your spouse, or your lover, or simply your best and closest friend. “To be jealous” in this sense is ревновать (я ревную, ты ревнуешь), which can be used in the construction ревновать кого-нибудь ко кому-нибудь. Normally, the person (spouse/lover/BFF) whose fidelity is up for debate goes in the accusative, and the actual or suspected “third wheel” is expressed by «к + dative». For instance:

Паша ревнует жену, Наташу, к соседу, Диме.
Pasha (Pavel) is jealous because of the friendship between his wife Natasha (Natalya) and their neighbor Dima (Dmitri).
[i.e., Pavel suspects that Natalya and Dmitri are cuckolding him, whether this is true or not.]

And although “jealous” and “envious” are sometimes used interchangeably in colloquial English, don’t confuse ревность with the noun зависть, which specifically means “envy” about someone else’s luck, prosperity, or god-given talents, and doesn’t imply a real or imagined “love triangle”. The verb form is завидовать, and it’s followed by a dative object, whether you mean “to envy someone” or “to envy something (that someone else possesses)”:

Неужели ты считаешь, что все завидуют американцам, пиндос?!
Do you really think that everyone envies Americans, you crank-wanking Yank?!

Икар завидовал крыльям и свободе пролетающих птиц.
Icarus envied the wings and the freedom of the passing birds.

The corresponding adjective for “envious” is завистливый, which should be distinguished from завидный, “enviable”. Note, however, that the short form завидно can mean “to feel envious” when used with a dative complement. So we might summarize them in a very redundant sentence:

Худощавый ботаник с завистью смотрел на завидные мускулы футболиста — вообще он не был завистливым человеком, а в тот момент — ё-моё, как ему было завидно!
The skinny nerd looked with envy at the football player’s enviable muscles — generally he wasn’t an envy-prone person, but at that moment — OMFG, how envious he felt!

(But then he discovered the Charles Atlas™ bodybuilding method and turned himself into a super-jock in just 15 minutes a day!!)


Maybe you already know the verb бояться (я боюсь, ты боишься), which means “to fear, be afraid of” — with the person or thing you fear in the genitive (кого-н./чего-н.). You can also follow it with an infinitive to express that you’re afraid to perform an action:

Девочка смотрела «Челюсти» по телевизору и теперь она боится и купаться в бассейне!
The little girl watched Jaws on TV and now she’s afraid even to take a dip in a swimming pool!

When used in the third person after a subject referring to inanimate substances and items (iron, silk fabric, cheese, mobile phones, etc.), бояться чего-н. can have the colloquial meaning “to be easily ruined by; to be vulnerable to”:

Медь боится солёной воды.
Copper isn’t saltwater-proof.

The transitive verb пугать/испугать means “to frighten someone”, and when you add the reflexive -ся the meaning becomes “to be afraid.” But while бояться tends to express a general fear of something, пугаться/испугаться кого-н./чего-н. can imply that you were once frightened by someone/something (in the genitive) on a particular occasion. Thus, there’s the familiar proverb:

«Волков бояться, в лес не ходить»
If you’re scared of wolves, don’t go into the forest.
(i.e., “If you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen.”)

Contrast this with:

На прогулке в лесу, я испугался волка [= волк меня испугал] — а “волк” оказался дружелюбной собакой!
On a stroll in the woods, I was frightened by a wolf — but the “wolf” turned out to be a friendly dog!

Finally, the noun страх means “fear,” and the adjective страшный (“dreadful; frightening; scary”) can be used in the neuter short form with the meaning “to feel afraid” — Мне было очень страшно!, “I was really scared!”

Shame and Embarrassment

There are a number of useful verbs relating to the general concept of стыд, “shame” — for example, оскорбить (“to deliberately insult”) and унизить (“to humiliate”) both came together in the title of Dostoevsky’s novel Униженные и Оскорблённые.

But the most basic verb is стыдить/пристыдить (я стыжу, ты стыдишь) + кого-н./что-н., meaning “to shame someone; to scold for shameful behavior”:

В этих стихах, пророк стыдит народа за лицемерие и идолопоклонство.
In these verses, the prophet heaps shame upon the people for their hypocrisy and idolatry.

The correspending reflexive, стыдиться/постыдиться is “to feel shame,” and when followed by кого-н./чего-н. (genitive), it means to be ashamed of someone/something:

Я немного стыжусь моих земляков.

I’m a little ashamed of my fellow countrymen (= “their behavior embarrasses me”).

The derived adjective стыдливый means “filled with shame” or “ashamed looking”, while стыдный is “worthy of shame; scandalous.” And the short form стыдно is used with great frequency in constructions like Вам не стыдно!, “Shame on you!” (Literally, “Don’t you feel ashamed?!”)

While стыд is “shame,” смущение is a little milder — closer to “embarrassment.” The transitive verb смущать/смутить (я смущу, ты смутишь…) means “to embarrass”:

Ваша лесть меня смущает!
Я смущаюсь от вашей лести!
Your toadying flattery embarrasses me!

Even milder, perhaps, is стесняться/постесняться, which simply means to feel a sense of стеснение, “inhibition; shyness”:

Я стесняюсь петь при незнакомых.
I’m bashful/inhibited about singing in front of strangers.

Confusion and Puzzlement

“To feel confused” is not necessarily easy to translate into Russian, because it’s so context-dependent. One verb that sometimes works is the imperfective заблуждаться, “to be mistaken.” So Вы, по-моему, наблуждаетесь can express “You seem to be confused.” (Just don’t get this mixed up with the perfective заблудиться (я заблужусь, ты заблудишься), which implies that someone has gotten physically lost, as in a dark forest or a лабиринт.

On the other hand, растеряться (perfective) means “to feel mentally lost, puzzled, confused”:

«Это не пояс, а галстук! Мне его подарили на день нерождения!» — с гордостью сказал Шалтай-Болтай.
Алиса растерялась. — «Простите, а что такое день нерождения

“It’s not a belt, it’s a cravat! It was given to me as an unbirthday present!” — said Humpty Dumpty with pride.
Alice was quite puzzled. — “I beg your pardon, but what’s an unbirthday?”

And since we’ve covered so many negative emotions, let’s finish with one that can be good or bad, depending on context: гордость means “pride,” and it ranges from healthy самоуважение (“self-esteem”) to the excessive чванство (“conceit”) and тщеславие (“vanity”) that characterized Humpty Dumpty. The verb is гордиться (я горжусь, ты гордишься), and it’s followed by кем-н./чем-н. (instrumental) to express the person or thing that you’re proud of. I can recall seeing signs like this in photos of political demonstrations, for example:

<Мы гордимся тем, что мы русские, а мы не гордимся правительством России!
We’re proud of the fact that we’re Russians, but we’re not proud of Russia’s government!

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  1. Terry:

    Good Column, Rob

  2. Gerry Grablewski:

    I haven’t had the time to visit this site for quite a while but am very glad that it is still going strong as ever.

  3. CBS:

    Hello Rob,

    Thank You for writing about this most important subject. You wrote about страдание as suffering.Which way is translated passion in the sense of the passion of Jesus Christus? Is страсть a proper word?



  4. PiperBernadotte:

    Sorry for bothering, but I noticed a few mistakes.)
    All this text is written on cardboard completely Russian-speaking person at the hearing and has become an Internet mem a long time ago. I feel фейспAлм from it. \facepalm\ Correct word is фейхоА.

    “ревновать кого-нибудь к_ кому-нибудь” – not ко.

    “ё-моё, как ему было завидно!”
    Often used accent on the first syllable – зАвидно. It’s wrong, but people say so in half the cases.

    “Девочка смотрела «Челюсти»” – посмотрела.
    “и теперь она боится и” – we avoid duplication of identical particles, prepositions, and cognates words in one sentence or part of text. Be better to use даже: “Девочка посмотрела «Челюсти» по телевизору и теперь она боится даже купаться в бассейне!”

    “В этих стихах, пророк стыдит народА…” – is wrong case: or народ, or народы. Most likely it was a typo – народ.

    “Я немного стыжусь моих земляков.” – землякОв.
    А noun in the singular form – землЯк, а noun in the plural form – землякИ, а noun in the plural form and accusative case – землякОв.

    “стыдливый means “filled with shame”” – стыдлИвый.

    “Вам не стыдно!” – is statement of fact. “Вам не стыдно?!” is closer to the truth, because enough rarely people ascertain the fact of shame each other. Also most correctly is “Тебе”, because very seldom people speak in such a tone speaking “Вы” to each other. “Тебе не стыдно?!” – typically it attempting to call the shame of kid.

    “Вы, по-моему, наблуждаетесь” – заблуждАетесь. Its typo.

    гОрдость, чвАнство, тщеслАвие

    “Мы гордимся тем, что мы русские, НО мы не гордимся правительством России!” – exactly но. Using “a” completely changes the meaning of the phrase.
    By the way it is quite silly phrase – proud of its ethnos is the man to whom be proud nothing anymore.

    Sorry for my bad English. 🙂