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Describing Emotions

Describing is not what you do when you actually express your emotions, which is what we learned previously. You describe your emotions when you tell somebody else how you (or another person) felt or how you feel right now. It’s a bit like describing a person, or a thing - you just talk about emotions.

Prepositions come into play quite a lot, when we do this, as in the examples below:

“I was alarmed at his behaviour.”
“An audience will always laugh at a good joke.”
“His father was very surprised at his decision to resign from the job.”

Note that the preposition at is used to express an emotive reaction to something abstract, like an event, idea, etc. If the reason that causes the reaction is a person or an object rather than an event, we tend to use the preposition with:

“She was furious with John.”
“He is overly pleased with his present.”

You can use other prepositions, like about and of: worried about, annoyed about, resentful of, etc.

Now, if you wish to explain the situation in more words, you will probably do it by either using a clause with infinitive (with ‘to’), or a ‘that-clause’ (with or without ‘should’) and in these cases the preposition is omitted:

“They were alarmed to find the house empty.”
“I was delighted that you came.”
We’re anxious that everything should go smoothly.”

You can also express the cause of emotion by the subject in your sentence, or by the agent, should you wish to use a passive voice expression. Take the example we had before:

“His father was very surprised at his decision to resign from the job.”
“His decision to resign from the job surprised his father very much.”
“His father was very surprised by his decision to resign from the job.”

Sometimes we just don’t wish to specify the person affected by the feeling. In most of the cases, the person affected is likely to be ‘me’ and imagine we wish to keep that private. In these situations, we use other constructions for describing emotions that are more impersonal, like:

“The meal was satisfactory/delightful, etc.”
“The news from my uncle is very disturbing.”
It’s amazing that so many people can’t speak English correctly.”
It’s a pity to have missed her.”
It’s a pity that you should have missed her.”

If you wish to express the person affected, but still keep the ‘I/me’ private, you can use phrases introduced by ‘to’ or ‘for’: for most people, for the majority, or simply to me:

To me, it’s amazing that so many people can’t speak English correctly.”

They need more practice, just like you do and… I wish you have fun while you’re at it.

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