Communicating emotions is very important in any language.
Generally, when you want to have a deep conversation in French, you can experience some difficulties to express your own emotions. And eventually, you can feel frustrated.
In this useful guide, you will learn 15 French expressions to describe happiness, anger, surprise, fear and sadness.
So let's see now different expressions that will help you to describe your emotions.
La joie 😊
The basic way to express happiness in French is : être content(e)¹ - to be happy.
- An other way to express it : sourire jusqu'aux oreilles. It defines a large smile, a great satisfaction. It litterally means to smile up to the ears. The English equivalent would be grin from ear to ear. For exemple: En apprenant cette nouvelle, il a souri jusqu'aux oreilles - Upon learning that news, he grinned from ear to ear.
- However, for a sudden and noisy laugh, you will say éclater de rire (bursting out laughing). For instance : J'ai éclaté de rire en regardant cette vidéo.
- Finally, angels are an illustration of a pleasant paradise, this is the reason why we use the expression être aux anges. Aujourd'hui, je vais à la plage. Je suis aux anges ! It means you are with the angels, or over the moon in a more familiar way.
¹ Je suis content is masculine 👨 Je suis contente is feminine 👩
La tristesse 😔
The typical term to speak about sadness is to use is être triste. For exemple: Je suis triste car tu me manques - I am sad because I miss you. Also, you could use pleurer 😢 which is to cry. Pourquoi tu pleures ?
- If sadness prevent you to speak, the expression is the same as to remain silent - Rester muet 🙊. Elles sont restées muettes¹ toute la soirée - they remained silent the all for the whole evening.
¹ Ils sont muets 👨 Elles sont muettes 👩
- Faire grise mine. To understand the expression, let's see firstly the words building it. La mine defines the different face’s expressions. Gris is grey. Someone doing the grey face looks sad, grey. However, it is not necessary describing a person. Le ciel fait grise mine 🌈 - The sky is being so grey.
- Then, we have the famous expression Avoir le cafard - To have the cockroach. Originally, It was to be linked with poverty and presence of vermin in dilapidated house. The mixture of both gives the feeling of depression. It became a symbol of sadness created by Charles Baudelaire - French poet of 19s that we will see in a next article - in his Fleurs du Mal, and his famous spleen.
La colère 😡
To express anger in French, we say être en colère, or s'énerver (reflexive verb). You could also use être furieux if you are extremely angry.
- A frequent sign of anger is to clench fists, or Serrer les poings ✊. We use the expression when someone is angry but refrain to let explode the anger. Serre les poings, garde ta rage - Clench your fists, keep your rage.
- Faire les gros yeux is when you threaten someone simply with an eye. Quand je lui ai dis qu'il avait tord, il m'a fait les gros yeux - When I told him he was wrong, he looked sternly at me.
- In French, an illustration of extreme anger is black color. Entrer dans une colère noire is to enter into a black anger.
La surprise 😲
- If you want to say that you are voiceless, you will use Rester sans voix. Face à cette belle femme, il est resté sans voix. In view of this beautiful woman, he was voiceless.
- En rester bouche bée 😵 is a similar expression which means to stay without knowing what to say, to be speechless. In old French, béer is to stay with an open mouth. Mon ami australien parle Japonais et Farsi couramment (=fluently), j'en reste bouche bée.
- Saying you are extremely surprised with tomber des nues ☁ - to fall from the clouds. Quand elle a appris que Batman était Bruce Wayne, elle est tombée des nues ! - When she learned that Batman was Bruce Wayne, she went flabbergasted !
La peur 😱
If you are afraid of something, you can basically use avoir peur.
- When the cold take hold of your body, your all body shivers, especially your back (=dos). Avoir froid dans le dos is an illustration of this feeling. In the metaphorical sense, it means to be scared or anxious. Quand je repense à ce film d'horreur 🎥 , j'en ai froid dans le dos.
- Prendre ses jambes à son cou is to run away in fright. Lorsque j’ai vu ce gros serpent 🐍 , j'ai pris mes jambes à mon cou. The litteral meaning can be a bit weird for non French speakers as it is: to take your legs to your neck !
- When fear petrify your all body, you would say to be scared to death - Être mort de peur 💀. As an example, je suis mort de peur à l'idée de rentrer dans ce parc d'attractions abandonné (=abandoned theme park).
With all these expressions, you will be able name your emotions, but also when listening or telling a story, and generally speaking about emotions in everyday life.