Translating ‘Feel’ to Spanish

Verb choice depends on meaning

girl touching a woman's nose
La niña toca la nariz de su abuela. (The girl feels her grandmother's nose.).

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The English verb "to feel" is one of those verbs that can be tricky to translate to Spanish. More so than with most words, you need to think of what the word means when trying to come up with a Spanish equivalent.

If you're fairly new to Spanish and trying to think of how to say a sentence using "feel" in Spanish, you should probably see first if you can think of a different, and simpler if possible, way of saying what you want to say. For example, a sentence such as "I feel sad" means basically the same thing as "I am sad," which can be expressed as "Estoy triste."

In that case, using sentirse to translate "feel" would also work: Me siento triste. In fact, sentir or sentirse frequently is a good translation, as it usually means "to feel an emotion." (Sentir comes from the same Latin word as the English word "sentiment.") But sentir doesn't work with many uses of "feel," as in these sentences: "That feels smooth." "I feel like going to the store." "I feel that it's dangerous." "It feels cold." In those cases, you need to think of a different verb to use.

Here are some of the ways you can translate "feel": 

Feeling an Emotion

As stated above, sentir or sentirse can often be used when referring to emotions:

  • Me siento muy feliz. (I feel very happy.)
  • Me siento fuerte psicológicamente. (I feel psychologically strong.)
  • Se siente en conflicto cuando necesita escoger entre uno u otro. (He feels conflicted when he needs to choose one or the other.)
  • No sentimos nada. (We don't feel anything.)

However, Spanish has many expressions using other verbs to express emotions. Here are a few:

  • Estoy muy feliz. (I am very happy. I feel very happy.)
  • Él tenía miedo. (He was afraid. He felt afraid.)
  • Tengo celos a mi hermana. (I'm jealous of my sister. I feel jealous of my sister.)
  • De repente se enojó. (Suddenly he got angry. Suddenly he felt angry.)

Sentirse is frequently used with como to express the concept of "feeling like a ...":

  • Se sintió como una extraña en su propia casa. (She felt like a stranger in her own home.)
  • Me siento como una estrella del rock. (I feel like a rock star.)

Feeling Sensations

Spanish generally doesn't use sentir to express what is felt with the senses. Sensations are often expressed by idioms using tener. If describing what something feels like, you can often use parecer (see next section):

  • Tienen hambre. (They're hungry. They feel hungry.)
  • Tengo frío. (I'm cold. I feel cold. It feels cold here.)
  • Tenían sed. (They were thirsty. They felt thirsty.)

Meaning ‘To Seem’

When "to seem" can be substituted for "to feel," you can often translate using the verb parecer:

  • Parece lisa al tacto. (It feels smooth to the touch. It seems smooth to the touch.)
  • Parece que va a llover. (It feels like it's going to rain. It seems that it is going to rain.)
  • La herramienta me parece útil. (The tool feels useful. The tool seems useful to me.)

Meaning ‘To Touch’

Tocar and palpar are often used to refer to touching something. Although palpar comes from the same source as "palpate," it is used much more often than the English word and can also be used in informal contexts.

  • El médico me palpó el abdomen. (The doctor felt my abdomen.)
  • Todos tocaron la piel de zorro para que les diera buena suerte. (Everyone felt the fox skin so it would give them good luck.)

‘To Feel Like’ Meaning ‘To Want To’

A phrase such as "to feel like doing something" can be translated using querer or other verbs used to express desire:

  • Quisiera comer una hamburguesa. (I feel like (eating) a hamburger. I would like to eat a hamburger.)
  • Prefiero salir yo con mis amigos. (I feel like leaving with my friends. I prefer to leave with my friends.)
  • Katrina no tenía ganas de estudiar. (Katrina didn't feel like studying. Katrina didn't have a desire to study.)

For Giving Opinions

"Feel" is often used to express opinions or beliefs. In such cases, you can use opinar, creer or similar verbs:

  • Pienso que no me gusta. (I feel I don't like it. I think I don't like it.)
  • Creo que Argentina es el mejor equipo del mundo. (I feel that Argentina is the best team in the world. I believe that Argentina is the best team in the world.)
  • ¿Por qué supones que tienes una infección? (Why do you feel you have an infection? Why do you suppose you have an infection?)

Key Takeaways

  • Although sentir and sentirse are the most common verbs translating "to feel," in many situations they would be incorrect.
  • Other verbs that are frequently used for "to feel" include tocar, querer, and creer.
  • A good way to translate "feel" is to instead translate a synonym for "feel" as it used in the context.
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Your Citation
Erichsen, Gerald. "Translating ‘Feel’ to Spanish." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Erichsen, Gerald. (2020, August 28). Translating ‘Feel’ to Spanish. Retrieved from Erichsen, Gerald. "Translating ‘Feel’ to Spanish." ThoughtCo. (accessed April 1, 2023).