Expressing Feelings And Emotions


When I sat down to type this lesson, I was torn whether to put this one first or something else. However, I ultimately decided to go with this one because time is of the essence. Not really.

There are times where you feel happy, sad, angry etc. Emotions are after all what makes us all human. Birth and marriage are events that make us happy. The recent earthquake in Nepal was an immensely saddening and frightening experience for all Nepali people. The diaspora of Nepali people around the world were in utter shock when it devastated Nepal. Throughout the range of events that occur in the life of a human being, we can all agree that the feelings we have, the emotions that run deep in our veins govern and distinguish humans from other entities. Most people agree that there are 6 basic emotions humans can express: Happiness, Sadness, Anger, Fear, Surprise and Disgust.

We all feel happy or sad during our lives. How do we express our feelings and emotions or put them in words in Nepali?


रीस (ris) = Anger

डर (dar) = Fear

खुशी/ खुसी (khusi) = Happy

अचम्म (achamma) = Surprise

घिन (ghin) = Disgust

लाज (laaj) = Shame 

हास (haas) = Laughter 

दु:ख (dukha) = Sorrow

भोक (bhok) = Hunger

तिर्खा (tirkha) = Thirst


We as human beings love to express ourselves. Whether in anger or surprise, happiness or fright, we can our hearts into words. For example, take this sentence:

I feel worried.

Such a simple structure, right?  However in Nepali, emotions and feelings are expressed using a different construction. This construction is called ‘dative construction’ because we use a dative marker (lai) to mark the subject instead of the more used ‘le’. Why is ‘lai’ used in the first place?

Let’s look at the philosophical aspect of this. When you say ‘I am feeling X’, you are not acting upon that emotion but rather that emotion has been acting upon you. As such, that emotion affects you, making you the ‘action receiver’. Remember, ‘lai’ shows who receives the action.

Basically, the structure looks something like this:

Subject + लाई (lai) + _______ + Verb [usually लाग्नु (laagnu)]

The verb does not conjugate according to the subject hence it remains in 3rd Person form for all subjects.

The above structure is used for a wide range of emotions. One notable fencesitter is ‘Happiness’ because it can be expressed using both the normal and the dative construction. However, others feelings cannot be so easily expressed. These are some of the emotions and feelings that is expressed using the dative construction: 

Anger, Fear, Surprise, Disgust, Sadness, Shame, Desire, Laughter, Sorrow, Regret, Hunger, Thirst, Discomfort etc.

Also, usually simple past tense is used rather than simple present, but the meaning conveyed will be usually in the present. Context matters too, so it is important to know when to understand past and when to understand present.

An example:

मलाई डर लाग्यो (ma`lai dar laagyo)

= I feel worried. 

A negative conjugation means you do not ‘feel’ the feeling. I won’t be going in-depth here:

मलाई डर लागेन (ma`lai dar laagena)

= I do not feel worried.

So many feelings as I write this (pun intended). I’ll be categorizing them according to what I feel is necessary.


Now that we have our basic structure, let’s find how to express feelings of happiness. Some of these feelings that we will be going over is: Happiness, Laughter, good-ness (of something)

For happiness and good-ness (of something), we use the word ‘खुशी’ (khushi) and राम्रो (ramro) respectively:

मलाई खुशी लाग्यो (ma`lai khusi laagyo)

= I feel happy. 

उसलाई राम्रो लाग्यो (uslai ramro laagyo)

= He found (it) nice/good.

For laughter, we use the verb ‘उठ्नु’ (uthnu) instead:

मलाई हास उठ्यो (ma`lai haas uthyo)

= I found (it) funny. (literally Laughter stood; figuratively I found it laughable)


There is no true word for sadness in Nepali that pertains all. When you say ‘I feel sad’, you actually mean ‘I feel sorrow’ in Nepali. The words we will be looking at is दु:ख (dukha) and माया (maya) which means ‘Sorrow’ and ‘Love’ respectively.

But wait, you all must be scratching your head why ‘maya’ (which means love) was included in Sadness. When you say ‘maya laagnu’, it actually means you feel sad for someone/something. Weird, right? But isn’t love some sort of pity too? Perhaps it’s this emphatic version of love why you say you feel ‘maya’ when you feel sad for someone.

उसको बारेमा सुन्दा मलाई माया लाग्यो (usko barema sunda malai maya laagyo)

= When I heard about him, I felt sympathy (for him).

बिचारा! कस्तो माया लाग्दो! (bichara! kasto maya laagdo!)

= Oh my! So pitiful!

मलाई दु:ख लाग्यो (malai dukha laagyo)

= I feel heartbroken.

Semantics here matters. When you say the above sentence, it sounds more like you feel sorry for someone, rather than telling how you feel today. Dative constructions just doesn’t express your feelings so well when you’re sad. Such a sad situation! How do we fix this? The solution is that you use a non-dative construction.

निरास (niraas) is a fencesitter too, but the non-dative construction sounds better: निरास (niraas) means ‘upset’. Obviously you need to conjugate the verb accordingly:

ऊ निरास छ (u niraas cha)

= He is sad.


The words for anger and fear are रीस (ris) and डर (dar) respectively. How do we use them?

Just like above, we use ‘laagnu’ for  डर (dar):

उसलाई भूतदेखि डर लाग्छ (us`lai bhut`dekhi dar laagcha)

= He feels afraid of ghosts.

मलाई डर लाग्यो (ma`lai dar laagyo)

= I feel scared.

We do not use ‘laagnu’ for anger. Like laughter, we use ‘उठ्नु’ (uthnu) instead. It is funny because उठ्नु (uthnu) means ‘To stand’. 

मलाई रीस उठ्यो (malai ris uthyo)

= I feel angry.

मजदुरको हालत सुनेपछि उसलाई रीस उठ्यो (majdur`ko haalat sunera uslai ris uthyo)

= After hearing about the condition of the workers, he felt angry.


The words for surprise and disgust are ‘अचम्म’ (achamma) and ‘घिन’ (ghin) respectively.

उसले यो गरेको देखेर अचम्म लाग्यो (usle yo gareko dekhera achamma laagyo)

= (I) became amazed after seeing him do this.

फोहोर देखेर घिन लाग्यो (phohor dekhera ghin laagyo)

= After seeing the filth, I felt disgusted.

There isn’t much to say here!


There will be a separate lesson for this, so stay tuned.


Finally, we all feel sweaty, hungry, thirsty, sleepy etc. Let’s explore these common terms here.

The words for hunger, thirst and sleep are भोक (bhok), तिर्खा (tirkha) and निद्रा (nidra):

धेरै हिनेपछि भोक लाग्छ (dherai hide`pachi bhok laagcha)

= After walking a lot, hunger strikes.

गर्मीमा सबैलाई तिर्खा लाग्छ (garmi`ma sabai`lai tirkha laagcha)

= In summer, everyone feels thirsty.

मलाई कक्षामा कस्तो निद्रा लाग्यो (malai kaksha`ma kasto nidra laagyo)

= I felt so sleepy at class.

You use the verb ‘आउनु’ (aaunu) if you are feeling sweaty. The word for sweat is पसिना (pasina).

मलाई पसिना आयो (ma`lai pasina aayo)

= I feel sweaty. (literally Sweat is coming to me)


That’s about it on expressing emotions and feelings. I hope this covered everything you need to learn to be more expressive! Is there anything I left out? 



1. तिमीलाई निद्रा लाग्यो? (timi`lai nidra laagyo)

2. घरमा एक्लै बस्न डर लाग्यो (ghar ma eklai basna dar laagyo)

3. झुट बोलेको सुनेर उसलाई रीस उठ्यो (jhut boleko sunera us`lai ris uthyo)

4. रासन नपाएर चिन्ता लाग्यो (raasan napaaera chinta laagyo)

5. त्यो फ्लिमदेखि डर लागेन (tyo flim dekhi dar laagena


1. स्कूल, भोक 

2. नेपाल, खुशी

3. चुटकिला, हास

ANSWERS (for illustrative purposes only)

A.1. Do you feel sleepy?

A.2. (I) feel afraid staying home alone.

A.3. He felt angry after hearing (him/her) speak lies.

A.4. Feeling worried after not getting ration.

A.5. (I) don’t feel scared from that movie

B.1.  स्कूलमा भोक लाग्यो (skul`ma bhok laagyo)

B.2. नेपाल मा आएर खुशी लाग्यो (nepal`ma aaera khusi laagyo)

B.3. चुटकिला सुनेर हास उठ्यो (chutkila sunera haas uthyo)