Grammar for Describing When We Are Not Feeling Well

27 April 2023

Imagine you are feeling sick, and you need to go to the doctor. Your throat might hurt or you might have a high temperature. What do you say? How do you describe how you are feeling?

In Today's Everyday Grammar, we will learn how to describe sickness and how to talk about our symptoms.


Everyday Grammar: Grammar for Describing When We Are Not Feeling Well
Everyday Grammar: Grammar for Describing When We Are Not Feeling Well

When you go to the doctor, it is important to describe what you are feeling. The doctor or nurse might ask you: "How do you feel?"

You can answer with the verb "to feel" plus an adjective to describe the feeling.

I feel good, healthy, amazing.

He feels bad, awful, terrible.

Nancy felt sick. They feel ill.

I feel weak and dizzy.

We can use "not" with the adjective "well" to also say that we do not feel good.

I do not feel well today.

While "well" is most commonly used to describe health, "good" is also used informally.

A: Are you feeling under the weather today?

B: No, I'm good.


When we go to the doctor's office, the doctor will ask about our symptoms.

We can describe our symptoms by talking about the affected body part plus the verb "be" and an adjective.

My eyes are red and itchy.

Jannie's throat is sore.

His finger is swollen.

We can also name the affected body part and combine it with verbs like "hurt" and "ache."

"To ache" means to have dull pain for a long time.

My body aches.

My back hurts.

Subject + to have

Another way to express symptoms is to use a personal pronoun like "I" as the subject and "have" with the illness or symptom.

I have a stomachache.

Her daughter has an ear infection.

She had had a sore throat all weekend.

You have a fever.

Note that "to have a stomachache" can have several meanings. The first could be that you are experiencing a dull pain in your stomach. The second is that you feel nauseous. The third meaning is that you could have painful gas.

Descriptive verbs

We can also use a descriptive verb to say the action that has occurred on or to a part of the body. Verbs like "hurt," "cut," "scraped" and "injured" are used with personal pronouns as subjects and the affected part of the body as the direct object.

Direct objects receive the action from the verb.

Subject + specific verb (cut, hurt, scrape) + body part.

I cut my finger.

Ashley bruised her knee.

We can add more information to the sentence in the form of adverbs and conjunctions.

I cut my finger yesterday while making dinner.

Larissa hurt her back when moving boxes last weekend.

Final thoughts

In today's Everyday Grammar, we learned some common ways to express how we are feeling and our symptoms to a health care professional. We learned about sentence structures with the verbs "feel," "have" and descriptive verbs like "cut" and "hurt."

We also talked about linking parts of the body to symptoms we are feeling using the verb "be."

Now it is your turn. Here is some homework to practice. Write a few sentences based on today's story. Write one sentence with the verb "feel." Write about part of your body and a symptom it has. Make a sentence using either the verb "to have" or a descriptive verb and a body part.

Are there any other expressions you know for talking about your symptoms and how you are feeling?

Write to us in the comments. Or send your homework to

I'm Faith Pirlo.

Faith Pirlo wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in the Story

symptoms – n. a change in the body or mind that shows the presence of a disease

nurse –n. a person trained in health care who usually works at a hospital or doctor's office.

awful – adj. extremely bad or unpleasant

dizzy adj. having a whirling sensation in the head with a tendency to fall; mentally confused

informally adv. in a way that is not suited for serious or official speech and writing

dulladj. not exciting or interesting

fever n. a sickness that causes a high body temperature

nauseous n. feeling sick in the stomach or as though you were about to expel what is in your stomach

scrape v. to damage (the surface of something) or hurt (a part of your body) by rubbing something rough or sharp against it or by making it rub against something rough or sharp

bruise – n. an injury from force that discolors the skin and causes pain

conjunction – n. (grammar) a word that joins together sentences, clauses, phrases, or words