A student asked me when we use the word feeling (singular) vs. feelings (plural), like in the sentence “I can certainly understand your feeling / feelings.”
In this sentence the most natural choice is feelings, because we use the plural form when it’s a substitute for the word “emotions.”
- feelings refers to emotions in general
- we use the word feeling when we’re talking about one specific feeling. It’s usually modified with an adjective – an amazing feeling, a terrible feeling, etc.
Now let’s expand your vocabulary by looking at some collocations with the words feeling and feelings. Collocations are combinations of words that are often used together – and learning them will help you speak English more easily and naturally.
I have two ways for you to learn collocations fast:
- One is my e-book, 1000 Collocations in 10 Minutes a Day, which is great for intermediate learners.
- The other one is my Advanced Vocabulary and Collocations Course, which is perfect for more experienced English learners.
Collocations with FEELINGS
All right, we’ll start by looking at collocations with feelings.
You can say, “He finds it hard to express his feelings.” If you express your feelings, that means you talk about your emotions and you share them with other people.
Another very common expression is to say, “She hurt my feelings.” If someone hurts your feelings, it means that they made you sad or they made you upset. That person made you experience negative emotions.
Another expression is mixed feelings. You can say, “I have mixed feelings about the situation.” This means you have some good emotions and some bad emotions. It’s not clear exactly how you feel.
Can you figure out what this collocation means? “He has strong feelings for her.” If one person has strong feelings for another person, that means he is in love with her. This implies strong romantic feelings. Again, that’s when you have “strong feelings for” another person.
Now, if you have strong feelings about an issue, it doesn’t mean that you’re in love with the topic. Strong feelings about an issue simply means that you have a strong opinion; maybe an emotional opinion about this topic.
An informal phrase is “No hard feelings.” This means there is no anger or resentment. For example, “I had a fight with my best friend, but afterwards, we talked about it calmly and now there are no hard feelings.” There is no anger, no resentment, no negativity.
The opposite of expressing your feelings is to hide or mask your feelings. This means you feel certain emotions but you don’t want to let other people know how you’re feeling.
You can even repress or suppress your emotions/feelings. This means you try to stop feeling a certain way, so that not even you experience these emotions.
Sometimes people refer to their innermost feelings, meaning the emotions that are deep inside them and usually private and personal.
Collocations with FEELING
Let’s see what collocations we have with “feeling” (singular). As I mentioned, we usually use adjectives:
- a positive emotion could be a good, great, wonderful, amazing, or terrific feeling
- a negative emotion could be a bad, horrible, terrible, or awful feeling
Usually when we say “I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” it means you suspect that something bad is going to happen or there’s something bad about the situation. A similar expression is to have an uneasy feeling; it means you feel a little uncomfortable because you’re slightly worried/or afraid something bad might happen
You can also say, “I’ve got a good feeling about this,” meaning the opposite; you think something good will come out of it or there’s something good about this situation.
Another collocation is “a nagging feeling” – this is a feeling that won’t leave you alone. It just keeps coming back and coming back and you can’t ignore it. For example, “After leaving home, she had a nagging feeling that she’d forgotten something.”
You can also have “a gut feeling.” A gut feeling means a feeling that is deep inside your heart. You can’t really explain it logically, but you are strongly convinced that it’s true. For example, “My gut feeling is that we can trust him.”
One feeling that is very bad is when you have “a sinking feeling.” A sinking feeling is when your emotions start to go down and you start to get very upset, very depressed or just feel very bad. For example, “He read the bad news with a sinking feeling.” It’s usually this moment when you realize that something bad has happened or is going to happen.
And finally, we have the expression “I have a feeling.” What on earth does this mean? “I have a feeling” is another way to say “I suspect.” Let me give you an example to make it clearer.
Let’s say you have a friend who never comes on time for everything. He’s always late; late to meetings, late to parties, late to events. Let’s say you plan to meet up with this friend and some other friends, and when you arrive all the other friends are there, but this particular friend is not. You can say, “I have a feeling he’s going to be late.” This means, “I suspect he’s going to be late.”
Okay? So use the word feelings (plural) when talking about emotions in general, and use the word feeling (singular) when talking about one specific emotion; that’s usually described by an adjective – a good feeling, a bad feeling, a sinking feeling, etc.
To remember collocations better, make sure to put them into practice – so try writing some sentences with the expressions we covered today.