In today’s word of the week blog, we’re looking at the French verb sentir. Have a listen to the audio clip below to hear how to pronounce it:
We are going to study sentir both as a standalone -ir verb, and in its reflexive form, se sentir. It’s important that we differentiate these, as they can be translated and used in different ways:
sentir to smell; to sense; to feel
se sentir to feel
While both ways of using the verb can be translated in English as ‘to feel’, se sentir is used to refer to emotions and internal feelings (whether physical or psychological), rather than ‘feeling’ as an external, physical sensation.
The difference is subtle, but there will be situations when you have to decide which verb to use. If you need a refresher on what a reflexive verb is, check out our Easy Learning French Grammar page on using reflexive verbs.
When it comes to grammar, whether or not we use it reflexively, sentir is an irregular verb. That said, it follows some of the same rules for regular -ir verbs in certain tenses.
For a little more information about verbs in general, see our page on important points to know about French verbs. You can also visit our French verb conjugation look-up to learn the various verb forms of sentir.
Now that we’ve got the grammar out of the way, let’s look at examples using sentir:
sentir mauvais to smell bad
sentir bon to smell good
Ton parfum sentait très fort toute la journée. Your perfume smelled really strong for the whole day.
Ça sent la pizza ici, miam-miam ! It smells of pizza in here, yum yum!
On a senti les fleurs dès qu’on est arrivés. We smelled flowers as soon as we arrived.
Il n’a rien senti. He didn’t feel a thing.
sentir la brise to feel the breeze
sentir la douleur to feel pain
sentir que… to sense that…
Now let’s move on to its reflexive version, se sentir:
Ils se sentent très seuls. They are feeling very alone.
Quand nous sommes parties, elle se sentait très triste. When we left, she felt very sad.
La semaine dernière j’avais la grippe, mais ce matin je me suis senti mieux. Last week I had the flu, but I felt better this morning.
se sentir mal to have a bad feeling
se sentir en sécurité to feel safe
se sentir comme chez soi to feel at home
So, how do you feel about learning yet another French word? We think you should feel proud of yourself and hope you return next week for another blog!
Written by Holly Tarbet, freelance copywriter and editor.
All opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of Collins, or its parent company, HarperCollins.