What does the phrase ‘feel for someone’ mean? If a person says they ‘feel for you,’ what are they implying?
‘Feel for someone’ is a phrase that means “to experience sadness, pity, sympathy, or empathy for another person that is suffering or struggling.”
The word ‘someone’ can be replaced with the appropriate pronoun or proper noun, such as ‘feel for you,’ ‘feel for him,’ or ‘feel for them.’
‘Feel for someone’ is a phrasal verb that means “to experience empathy, sadness, pity, or sympathy for someone because they are struggling or suffering.”
Let’s break down the definition a bit further:
The word ‘someone’ can be replaced with the appropriate noun or pronoun, depending on the circumstance.
“I’m so sorry, I really ‘feel for you.’”
If you were describing the situation to your mother, you might say:
“I really ‘feel for my friend,’ I know how much his dog means to him.”
The phrase ‘feel for someone’ should not be confused with the similar phrases ‘I feel you’ or ‘I feel myself.’ ‘I feel you’ is a slang phrase that means “I understand you” or “I relate to what you’re saying,” while ‘I feel myself’ has an idiomatic meaning, a literal meaning, and a slang meaning.
Other similar-sounding phrases include ‘feel for’ and ‘feel for something.’
‘Feel for’ in certain contexts can mean gaining a better sense of how to do something or a situation. For example, someone might say, “I’m really getting the ‘feel for’ the way things work in the restaurant and am feeling a lot more comfortable now.” In another sense, ‘feel for’ can mean to reach for with one’s hands or grope.
To get a ‘feel for something’ means to have a learned or natural ability to do something. For instance, you could say, “I’m really getting the ‘feel for’ basket weaving, and I think I might make my mother a basket for Christmas.”
The word ‘feel’ comes from the Old English verb felan which means “to have a sensory experience of or touch; sense or perceive (something).” Over time, the specific word for “experience by a sense of touch” in Germanic languages has evolved to also apply to emotional states.
The use of the word ‘feel’ to mean “to react with compassion or sympathy” dates all the way back to the mid-fourteenth century.
Using the Google Books Ngram Viewer, we can see the use of the phrases ‘feel for you,’ ‘feel for him,’ ‘feel for her,’ and ‘feel for someone’ in publications since the year 1800. The use of these phrases was more common between 1800 and 1900 than it was during most of the 20th century, but it has become more common again starting around the turn of the millennium.
Here is an example of the phrase used in a sermon from 1806 entitled “Prepare for Death!”:
“Your loss we know is great. We feel for you; we feel for you also, my young friend, the brother of the deceased, and for your absent sister and her worthy partner. May you all receive divine support! May you all experience the comforts of that religion which you profess to love! May you find God a present help to you in this your time of need!”
We also find the phrase in an 1808 publication called Reading-book for the English Language:
“It is enough if you reflect, that barely to remember any person when one’s mind is taken up with a sensible sorrow, is a great degree of friendship. I can say no more but that I love you, and all that are yours, and that I wish it may be very long before any of yours shall feel for you what I now feel for my father.”
How would you use the phrase ‘feel for someone’ in a sentence? Let’s look at some examples:
What are some other words and phrases that have a similar meaning to 'feel for someone'?
Here are a few options:
‘Feel for someone’ is a phrase you can use when you are expressing that you sympathize with someone else’s suffering or difficulties. Whether a person is struggling at work, has experienced a loss, or isn’t feeling well, you can say that you ‘feel for’ them to convey the empathy and sorrow you are experiencing because of their circumstance.
Are you excited to learn more English expressions? Make sure you check out our idioms blog for idioms, phrases, proverbs, and more.