Italian Phrases We May Have to Use SOME Days! I don’t feel well…

Kathryn for
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2017?

I believe that “commonly used phrases” are the key for how we can all build fluency in any language in a short time.

If we learn how to incorporate “commonly used phrases” when we speak Italian, we will be able to express ourselves more easily and quickly. We will be on our way to building complex sentences and speaking more like we do in our native language!

This post is the 8th in a series that originates in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group. Our group has had a chance to use these phrases.  Now I am posting them on in this blog for everyone to try!  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!  just click HERE.

Another of our “commonly used phrases,” that will help us talk more easily is
 “I don’t feel well..”
This will lead us to discuss how to describe what is making us feel unwell, 
using the verbs avere, essere and fare

 See below for how this works.

As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

This material was adapted from the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books  Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar  

                       found on and Learn Travel

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel


I don’t feel well …

in Italian

We learned in our last blog that the present tense form for “I feel…” is rendered in Italian with the reflexive verb  sentirsi,  and is, “Io mi sento…” But, of course, we always leave out the Italian subject pronoun, so the phrase that Italians use is conversation is just, “Mi sento…”

To complete the phrase, just add how you are feeling after the verb!  The most common way to use this verb in conversation is to say, “Mi sento bene!” which means, “I feel well!” (Notice Italians do not say, “I feel good,” which is actually grammatically incorrect, although we say this in English all of the time.)  

Unfortunately, sometimes we may not be feeling well when someone asks, “Come ti senti?” or “Come si sente?” which both mean, “How are you feeling?” (the first in the familiar form and the second in the polite form).

Then, we can simply add the negative to the phrase we have just learned, and say, “Non mi sento bene, ” for, “I don’t feel well.”

Or, we can say, “Mi sento male,” which means, “I feel badly/sick.” 

To ask someone if they are feeling unwell, you can say, “Ti senti male?” “Do you feel badly/sick?”  “Si sente male?” “Does she/he feel badly/sick?”


(Io) Mi sento bene. I feel well.
(Io) Non mi sento bene. I don’t feel well.
(Io) Mi sento male. I feel badly/sick.
Come ti senti?
(Tu) Ti senti male?
How do you feel? (familiar)
Do you feel badly/sick? (familiar)
Come si sente?

(Lei/Lui) Si sente male?

How do you feel? (polite)
Do you feel badly/sick? (polite)
Does she/he feel badly/sick?

Alternatively, you can simply say you have an illness with the following two phrases:

Io sono malato(a). I am sick.
Io ho una malattia. I have an illness.

A male who is sick is “un malato” and a female who is sick is “una malata.”

The word malattia can also be used to indicate a craze,  habit, or addiction.



If a friend hears that you are not feeling well, the next question in the conversation will likely be something like, “Perché?”  for “Why? or “Che succede?”/“Che è successo?” for “What is happening?”/“What happened?”

The phrases I hear in response to this question the most in Italian movies are:

Ho un febbre. I have a fever.
Ho 38 di febbre. I’ve got a 100 degree fever.
Ho un raffreddore. I have a cold.


In order to more completely describe what the problem is when we are not feeling well, we can use the verb  fare and follow the simple sentence structure described below.

In order to describe a headache, for instance, the phrase to use would be, “ (Io) Mi fa male la testa.”  The literal translation is, “To me, the head is hurting,” but the correct English would be, “I have a headache.” Notice that in this case “mi” is now a direct object pronoun, rather than part of a reflexive verb.  Once again, leave out the subject pronoun “io,” for our final phrase, “Mi fa male la testa.”

Sound confusing?  Well, if we think in Italian, we find that describing what part of the body hurts us is actually quite easy.  In the examples below we use the same phrase, “Mi fa male,” over and over again, substituting the different parts of the body that are hurting in each case, of course!  Just remember that if more than one part of the body is hurting (like both feet, for instance) to change the verb to the plural fanno.

Mi fa male la testa. My head hurts.
Mi fa male la gola. My throat hurts.
Mi fa male lo stomaco. My stomach hurts.
Mi fa male la schiena. My back hurts.
Mi fanno male i piedi. My feet hurt/ache.



The verb avere can also be used to describe discomfort or the feeling of sickness when combined with the phrase, “il mal di.”  The definite article il is used in the phrase for emphasis, rather than the equivalent of the English “a.”  Examples follow, but hopefully you will be able to enjoy your trip to Italy without having to use any of these phrases! 

Ho il mal di testa.  I have a headache.
Ho il mal di gola. I have a sore throat.
Ho il mal di stomaco. I have a stomach ache.
Ho il mal di schiena. I have a backache.
Ho il mal di mare. I have seasickness/feel seasick.


Remember these phrases you may (unfortunately) have to use on some days!

Conversational Italian for Travelers
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar”

 Available on and Learn Travel

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