I think I have observed certain patterns regarding adjectives describing feelings. Are the following observations correct?

Take うれしい as an example. The Wisdom English-Japanese Dictionary defines うれしい as “glad, happy, thrilled”. Having read a few example sentences, I think that it would be wrong to translate “I am glad” as 私がうれしい because I noted a pattern that in “Xがうれしい“, X is always the thing that causes the feeling of happiness.

Likewise, I suppose that “a happy person” should not be translated as うれしい人, because in うれしいY, Y again should be the thing that evokes the feeling of happiness. The correct translations for “I feel glad” and “a happy person” should be 私がうれしいと感じる/思う and うれしいと思っている人.

I think the same holds, for example, for ありがたい being defined as “be grateful” and 心細い as “lonely, uneasy”. (If the above observations are correct, then perhaps I have come to understand why at the elementary level, I like apples = 私はりんごが好きだ. 好き describes the property of apples of evoking the feeling in 私 of liking apples.)

Is it correct to claim the following?

  1. Adjectives describing emotions and feelings generally mean “having the property/capability of evoking those feelings”.
  2. Item 1 holds both when an adjective A appears as a predicate and when it modifies a noun. That is, in XがA and AY, both X and Y are the object/event/person evoking the feeling of A and cannot be the person harboring the feeling of A.
  3. Items 1 and 2 apply both for い-adjectives and な-adjectives.
  • 2
    I can't say much about you general point, that is whether all "feelings adjectives" apply to the object and not to the person experiencing the feelings, but I think I have a counter example: "happy person" is 幸せな人. I think that the dictionary translation is sometimes confusing. In my Ja-Ru dictionary for example ありがたい is translated something like "worthy of gratitude" which makes it clear that it applies to the object not to the person. Same goes for 好き which is better translated as "likable/lovable" which once again makes it clear that it applies to the object. Commented Oct 27, 2021 at 13:56

1 Answer 1


Assuming my interpretation of your argument is correct, you are very very much on the right track! But unfortunately I can prove wrong not against individual bullet points 1 to 3, but the point prior to reaching them. If my interpretation is wrong, sorry please correct me.

in うれしいY, Y again should be the thing that evokes the feeling of happiness

Exactly! For 「嬉しいニュース」 (good news), the news evokes happiness, but news doesn't receive happiness.

The correct translations for “I feel glad” and “a happy person” should be 私がうれしいと感じる/思う...

From one logical perspective yes, but let's decompose that "I feel glad" and add a kind little "thanks".

What you are saying is:

  • 私は嬉しい気持ちになっています。ありがとうございます。
  • 私は嬉しい気持ちに浸っています。ありがとうございます。
  • 私は嬉しい気持ちを感じてます。ありがとうございます。
  • etc...

Yes, they're correct. But most of the time we say: 私は嬉しい気持ちです。ありがとうございます。

Actually, no. It becomes shorter: (私は)嬉しいです。ありがとうございます。 We don't really say 私は but for explanation, I leave it here.

It can be shorter too:

  • 私、うれしい。ありがとうございます。
  • うれしい。ありがとうございます。

Let's go back to 「私は嬉しいです」 and observe those words. If we follow one set of logic, it sounds like a lunatic. 「私は人間です」 (I am human) makes sense, but 「私は嬉しいです」 (I am happy) makes no sense. This works similarly in English too:

John "I am happy!"

Karen "Hell no, you are not a "happy", you are a human. You are merely "feeling happiness in your soul"."

Karen is kind of making a valid point, but it doesn't work that way. There are many logic and rules intertwined that makes 「私、うれしいです!」 a valid statement. I won't go beyond the scope of your question, but I hope this helps clear some of your doubts.

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