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Feeling in French: Sentir, Se sentir, Ressentir

In our last lesson, we looked at three different ways of saying "to look like" in French. We'll continue that pattern in this lesson by introducing the three different ways of saying "to feel": sentirse sentir, and ressentir. Though these verbs all look alike and have the same meaning, each of them is used in a different context. 

 

Sentir (related to "sense" in English) generally refers to feeling the physical effects of something, such as a post-run stretch or a cool breeze: 

 

Tu dois sentir une petite tension au niveau musculaire.
You should feel a little tension at the muscular level.
Cap. 12, Joanna: La course à pied - Récupération 

 

J'aime sentir la brise rafraîchissante sur mon visage. 
I love feeling the cool breeze on my face. 

 

Besides bodily sensations, sentir can refer to feeling any kind of external pressure: 

 

Mais cette année on sent la crise, hein. 
But this year we're feeling the financial crisis, you know.
Cap. 25, Actu Vingtième: Le vide-grenier

 

But "feeling" isn't the only sense of sentir. It can also mean "to smell," both in terms of smelling something and giving off a scent: 

 

Peut-être que vous sentez les odeurs qui sortent des studios de temps en temps.
Maybe you smell the aromas that come out of the studios from time to time.
Non, oh pas vraiment parce que nous, on est derrière les cuisines et puis ça sent!
No, oh not really because us, we're behind the stoves, and so it smells!
Cap. 9-10, 4 Mains Pour 1 Piano: Médaillon de Homard - Part 1 

 

When you make sentir reflexive (se sentir), it becomes less about external, physical feelings and more about internal, emotional ones. While sentir usually takes an object, se sentir usually precedes an adjective or adverb to describe a person's condition or state of mind: 

 

Très vite, elle se sent menacée.
Very soon, she feels threatened.
Cap. 5, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Espion dans l'immeuble - Part 1 

 

Ah, je me sens mieux! 
Ah, I feel better!
Cap. 42, Cap 24: Les bus sont-ils toujours en retard ?

 

Finally, there's ressentir, which literally means "to feel again." That might give you a clue about this verb's connotations. Like se sentirressentir also refers to an interior feeling, but it's generally used to describe an intense emotion, something you strongly feel. Like sentir, it usually takes an object: 

 

Vous voyez cette exigence que je ressentais
You see this demand that I felt
Cap. 20, Le Journal: Défilé de mode - Part 4 

 

C'était vraiment quelque chose que je ressentais, qui me rendait vraiment heureuse.
It was something that I really felt, that made me really happy.
Cap. 5, B-Girl Frak: La danse 

 

Though ressentir is related to the English verb "to resent," it doesn't have the same meaning. Le ressentiment, however, does mean "resentment." 

 

Sometimes it's tough to talk about your feelings—no matter what language you're speaking. These three verbs will help you do it in French!

Vocabulary

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