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“Never have I felt such [fill in emotion here]…” Posted by on May 30, 2013 in language, Russian for beginners

When Russians ask you «Как ты чувствуешь себя (“How are you feeling?”), the expected answer would be something like “My cough seems to be getting worse” or “The traveler’s diarrhea is finally clearing up?” — in other words, they’re asking about your physiological well-being.

On the other hand, if they want to know about your emotional state, the question might be phrased as Какое у тебя настроение? (“What kind of mood are you in?”). Or more simply:

«Как дела
How are things?
«Как ты сегодня?»
How are you today?

And in this post, we’ll be looking at some vocabulary for various emotional states — in other words, different possible answers to «Как дела

First of all, as you probably know, you can answer this question in a fairly non-specific way using basic short-form neuter adjectives like хорошо (“good”), плохо (“bad”), or нормально (“So-so, not too bad”). And you can use a dative form as a “logical subject” to specify who is feeling good or not-so-good: Мне плохо, ему нормально (“I’m feeling bad, he’s feeling okay.”) And, of course, you can express stronger emotional states with words like отлично (“excellent”), великолепно (“magnificent”), and ужасно (“terrible”) — though, again, you’re not being clear about the exact nature of the emotion (for instance, are you terribly angry, terribly bored, terribly jealous, or terribly ashamed?)

So let’s try to be more specific, beginning with the different ways to express the basic concepts of “glad, sad, and mad”.

“Feelin’ Glad”

Expressions like “to be glad” or “to be happy” can generally be translated using a nominative subject with the appropriate gender/number of the short-form adjective рад, рада, радо, рады. And this can be followed by an infinitive (“glad to do something”), the dative form of a person that you feel happy for, or the dative of a thing that you’re glad about:

Все мы будем очень рады познакомиться с вами!
We’ll all be very glad (=”we’re looking forward to it”) to get acquainted with you!

Она рада своему брату.
She is happy for her brother.

Павел был рад возможности посетить Нью-Йорк.
Pavel was glad for the opportunity to visit New York.

Another way to express that a person is in an upbeat, Zip-a-dee-doo-dah kind of mood is by using the transitive verb радовать/обрадовать (“to gladden someone”) in an impersonal construction with an accusative direct object:

«Меня крайне радует, что летние каникулы скоро начнутся!» — сказал мой племянник.
“I’m so super excited that summer break will start soon!” — said my nephew.

Incidentally, many English-Russian dictionaries translate “excited” as возбуждённый — however, you should be aware that this adjective may be understood by Russians to imply either “agitated and jittery” or “sexually aroused”! Therefore, using a construction like кого-нибудь очень (об)радовать (“to gladden someone very much”) is a better/safer choice, когда ты хочешь сказать, что (“when you mean that”) someone is gleefully anticipating something.

Since рад only has those four “short forms,” you can’t use it as a modifier if you want to say, for example, “a happy day.” Instead, you could go with радостный, “joyous”:

Давайте не ссоримся — ведь свадьба должна быть радостным делом.
Let’s not quarrel — after all, a wedding ought to be a happy event.

And in addition to рад, you can also use adjectives like счастливый and весёлый, which have slightly different shades of meaning. Счастливый (short forms счастлив, счастлива, -о, -ы) means “happy,” but tends to emphasize a long-term gladness that comes from being aware of one’s luck and good fortune — in fact, the noun счастье is translatable either as “happiness” or “good luck.” On the other hand, весёлый (весел, весела, весело, -ы) puts the emphasis on merriment and laughter, and the corresponding verb веселиться means “to have a fun time”:

Борис с друзьями веселятся на море.
Boris and his friends are hanging out and partying at the seashore.

“Feelin’ Sad”

In general, you can express “someone feels sad” by putting the person in the dative case, followed by a neuter short adjective like грустно or печально, both of which mean “sad, downcast, mournful, gloomy,” etc. Thus, Ему было грустно, “He was sad.” Another way would be to use the verb испытывать/испытать, “to experience (an emotion)”, together with a noun referring to the emotion, such as печаль, “sorrow,” or грусть “sadness”:

Героиня романа всё время испытывала тоску.
The heroine of the novel was in a constant state of melancholy ennui.

And this construction with испытать can be also used with any type of emotion, such as восторг (“ecstasy”), тревога (“agitation; alarm”), гнев (“wrath”), ревность (“jealousy”), and so forth. But there are also specific “sadness” verbs, such as печалиться (“to feel unhappy”) and тосковать (“to be filled with melancholy/ennui/homesickness”). For instance, the folk song «Ой мороз, мороз» includes these lines about the singer’s wife, who is described as being ревнивая (“inclined to jealousy”):

♪♫ Ждёт меня домой
Ждёт, печалится.

[She] is waiting for me to come home.
She waits, and feels sad. ♪♫

You could also put this verb into the imperative and say to this unhappy wife: Женщина, не печалься! — “Woman, don’t be sad!” — since her husband has promised (in the song) that he’ll be home at sunset to give her a big drink of water while he hugs his horse. Or possibly наоборот, “the other way around”.

But if the wife happens to be particularly обидчивая (“touchy; thin-skinned”) it’s just possible that она обиделась бы на ваш совет, что ей не следует печалиться (“she might take offense at your advice, that she has no reason to feel sad.”). Which brings us to…

“Feelin’ Mad”

There are different levels of anger, obviously, and we can start with обижать/обидеть, “to offend, to annoy, to insult” — as in the expression:

Он мухи не обидит!
He wouldn’t even hurt the feelings of a fly!

The perfective conjugates like this:

обидеть (“to offend”; also обидеться, “to take offense at”)
Past обидел, -а, -о, -и
sing. pl.
1st обижу обидим
2nd обидишь обидите
3rd обидит обидят
Imperative обидь(те)!

So you could use the reflexive -ся forms of this verb to express minor anger/annoyance:

Почему ты обижаешься на такую мелочь?
Why are you getting huffy over such a trifling thing?

Sometimes people cause offense without meaning to, and обижать/обидеть covers those situations. But if you feel that someone is deliberately trying to be a pest, you could use the verb раздражать/раздражить, “to irritate; to annoy; to provoke”:

Меня раздражает, когда сотрудники говорят обо мне за спиной!
It annoys me when people at work talk about me behind my back!

As far as I know, the -ся form of this verb is more likely to be used in physiological contexts about literal inflammation:

У неё кишечник раздражился водкой и пикантными закусками.
Her digestive tract has become irritated by the vodka and spicy appetizers.

So if you want to say “he/she/they were annoyed,” you could instead use the short forms of the past passive participle, namely: раздражён, раздражена, раздражёны.

And for more intense anger, there’s сердить/рассердить (кого-н./что-н.), “to enrage someone/something”, and сердиться/рассердиться, “to become very angry”. The person that your anger is directed towards is expressed by на кого-н. (acc.), and you can use the short-form adjective сердит, -а, -ы as an alternative to the verb. Finally, the reflexive perfective рассердиться can be translated “to burst out in anger” (referring to the start of the angry state, rather than to its completion. Thus:

Коля чем-то рассердил Таню.
Kolya (Nick) had somehow angered Tanya.
Таня сердилась на Колю. = Таня была сердита на Колю.
Tanya was feeling angry at Kolya.
Наконец, Таня рассердилась на Колю.
Finally, Tanya blew her top at Kolya.

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  1. Fizmat:

    >Мне плохо
    This means “I’m sick”, regardless of context. The same with “Ему плохо”, “Тебе плохо?” etc.

    One-word “плохо” on the other hand is basically shorthand so it’s very dependent on context.

    – Как дела?
    – Плохо = дела плохо, something bad happened, bad luck today.

    – Как настроение?
    – Плохо = настроение плохо = настроение плохое = I’m feeling down.

    – Как ты сегодня?
    – Плохо = Can mean basically anything, from feeling down to feeling sick to having bad luck. Usually followed up by elaborating what exactly is wrong.

    >Ему нормально
    Works better to describe feeling towards the environment. “Мне жарко, а ему нормально”. It’s clearer if say “У него нормальное настроение”, but that sounds cumbersome. So whenever possible omit the “who” completely. “Как у него настроение? – Нормально.”

    >Она рада своему брату.
    She is happy to see her brother. Basically, the same as “Она рада подарку”, “She is happy to get this present”.
    >She is happy for her brother.
    Она рада за своего брата.

    >Incidentally, many English-Russian dictionaries translate “excited” as возбуждённый — however, you should be aware that this adjective may be understood by Russians to imply either “agitated and jittery” or “sexually aroused”!

    Yes, it only translates directly in technical context, excited electron energy levels and whatnot. For emotions, “excited” is very hard to translate.

    >As far as I know, the -ся form of this verb is more likely to be used in physiological contexts
    Раздражаться is nothing special. “Почеу ты сегодня раздражаешься по мелочам? – Я не успел позавтракать.”

    >У неё кишечник раздражился водкой и пикантными закусками.
    If it’s medical, irritation is almost always a noun. “Раздражение”. “Водка и пикантные закуски вызвали раздражение кишечника.” As is the case in English, professionals love passive case and using nouns.

    There’s also злиться/разозлиться. Basically the same meaning: to be angry.

    >”to become very angry”
    Is there such a thing as “mildly angry”? Does “сердиться” really need this qualifier?

    >рассердиться can be translated “to burst out in anger”
    I don’t think so. Рассердиться just means “to become angry at somebody”, like a reversed-direction “рассердил”.

    >Наконец, Таня рассердилась на Колю.
    >Finally, Tanya blew her top at Kolya.
    Наконец, Таня сорвалась на Колю и высказала всё, что она о нём думает. (I almost wrote “думала”. The English way of forming indirect speech is too logical, it’s starting to affect my Russian…)

  2. Aleksey Semakin:

    Lots of good observations, Rob – just three things are not quite accurate:

    – крайне радует is formal/literary style; it’s definitely not the same as ‘super excited’, I can’t imagine a youngster saying крайне, unless he/she is high on drugs or is showing off in a literature class. ‘I’m excited’ in informal style is more likely to be translated by an impersonal phrase, e.g. ‘Так классно, что скоро будут каникулы’.

    – Давайте не ссоримся is not correct grammar. Should be давайте не ссориться or давайте не будем ссориться.

    – У нее кишечник раздражился водкой doesn’t sound Russian. Раздражился + instrumental case is very unusual and not idiomatic. You are more likely to use a short adjective here (был) раздражен водкой.