‘Feel for Someone’: Definition, Meaning, and Examples

By Sophia Merton, updated on March 6, 2023

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.’

What Does 'Feel for Someone' Mean?

‘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:

  • Sympathy is defined as “feelings of sorrow or pity for the misfortune of another person.”
  • Empathy is defined as “the ability to share and understand the feelings of another person.”

The word ‘someone’ can be replaced with the appropriate noun or pronoun, depending on the circumstance.

For example, let’s say that your best friend’s dog is old and very sick. When you’re consoling them, you might say something like:

“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.”

Where Does 'Feel for Someone' Come From?

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.”

Examples of 'Feel for Someone' In Sentences

How would you use the phrase ‘feel for someone’ in a sentence? Let’s look at some examples:

  • “I was really feeling for John yesterday, and he seemed so upset.”
  • “Sarah has really been going through a lot recently. I know she’s brought some of it on herself, but it’s hard not to feel for her. At the end of the day, I’m rooting for her.”
  • “I can’t believe you lost your job and Dave left you on the same day. I want you to know that I feel for you. Hang in there, and everything will work out with time.”
  • “I feel for you that you’re up against a deadline, but you should really take this as a lesson not to waste time so often.”
  • “Sally could tell that despite his soft-spoken demeanor, he was in a lot of pain. She felt for him and wished there was something she could do to help him feel better.”
  • I’ve been through a similar situation, so I’m really feeling for her right now.”
  • “You can tell that Tim has been horribly lonely ever since his wife left. I feel for him, and I want him to know that I’m here for him, but I don’t want to make him uncomfortable by bringing up the topic.”
  • “I lost my father when I was a child as well. It’s not easy– I feel for you.”
  • “Adam really felt for Bob, but he knew there wasn’t anything he could do to help.”

Other Ways to Say 'Feel for Someone'

What are some other words and phrases that have a similar meaning to 'feel for someone'?

Here are a few options:

  • Feel sympathy for
  • Commiserate with
  • Empathize with
  • Sympathize with
  • Feel sorry for
  • Pity
  • Feel compassion for

Final Thoughts About ‘Feel for Someone’

‘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.

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Written By:
Sophia Merton
Sophia Merton is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Sophia received her BA from Vassar College. She is passionate about reading, writing, and the written word. Her goal is to help everyone, whether native English speaker or not, learn how to write and speak with perfect English.

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