AEE 1154: Are you Happy? Sad? or Both? How to Express a Bittersweet Feeling

Have you ever had a bittersweet feeling about something?

That is to say, have you ever had multiple emotions about something at the same time?

There may be times when you feel happy but sad, and this is quite normal.

We’re going to look at what it means to feel bittersweet about something and also how to talk about it in natural English conversations.

Here is a letter that talks about this internal conflict that so many of us experience.

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Hi girls!

I am Lily, and I hope you guys remember me. I once asked a question that you answered about how to congratulate somebody about their pregnancy.

I’d like to say thank you again for your tremendous help with my English! I always enjoy listening to your podcast. I’d like to give a special shout out to you for taking the time to record the podcast. I know it all takes a lot of work!

I have a question for you today. One of my dear friends got a job recently. Because of it involving a long commute, she had to move to another state.

As soon as I heard it, there was a word that came to my mind–bittersweet.

So I told her, “Congratulations!!! BUT it is bittersweet to see you go.”
Of course, it was great that she’d gotten the job she really wanted, but at the same time it was so sad that she had to go.

Are there other expressions I can use to express mixed feelings when that kind of situation happens again?

Thanks for your help!

Understanding This Complicated Feeling

This question really hits home because we have all likely felt it at one point in time.

You may feel conflicted when you are bittersweet, and therefore it can be hard to understand or even explain.

For those who may not know, bittersweet is the feeling you get when you are happy about something, but also a little bit sad.

This feeling often comes when something ends in life that is generally happy but marks the end.

It may be the end of an event or program, it may be the end of a chapter of your life, or it may be parting ways with somebody.

There are many different circumstances and scenarios that are bittersweet, and it can be a lot to take in sometimes.

How Does Bittersweet Play Out?

If you are just thinking this through, then you may not necessarily find a good scenario that categorizes feeling bittersweet.

You know it when you feel it, but you may not readily recognize it up front.

There are many different situations where you may feel bittersweet, but understanding a few examples can always help.

  • Graduation: You may feel happy to graduate, but a little sad as it is a sign of growing up. A chapter of your life is over, but a new one is beginning. This is why you may feel bittersweet and therefore conflicted.
  • The end of a job that you liked: You are happy to move onto a better opportunity, but a little sad that you are leaving where you are at. You may have come to like the people or the atmosphere, and so this may make you feel sad. You may be ready for a change, but sometimes this is hard.
  • Seeing your child get married: You are of course happy they are getting married, but you’re also a little sad also about time passing. You may realize that your baby is all grown, and they are moving on with their life.

You may find that you use the word bittersweet in English conversations often.

There are several ways of using bittersweet in a sentence.

You could say something is bittersweet, or you could describe something by saying “it’s bittersweet” or “it’s a bittersweet feeling.”

Feeling Multiple Emotions At Once

There are plenty of times when you may feel multiple emotions at the same time.

It may feel conflicting, and therefore knowing how to express it in English can be tricky at times.

How else can we express when we feel multiple emotions?

  • Mixed feelings/emotions: This is calling it exactly what it is because you feel multiple emotions at the same time. On one hand, I’m happy I’m going after my dreams, on the other it’s hard to be so far from my friends and family. You have mixed feelings that may seem to conflict, and yet it makes perfect sense.
  • Feeling so many things: This could be more than bittersweet “Thank you for this award. Wow, I’m feeling so many things right now. It may be so overwhelming that it brings you to tears sometimes.
  • Highs and lows: This may be more about your emotions over time. You may experience highs where everything is great. Then you may experience lows where things feel hopeless. It’s quite normal to have highs and lows in any long term relationship or situation.

Knowing how to talk about a mix of emotions is a great way of making connections.

Any of these phrases can help to convey that you feel a couple of things at the same time.

Takeaway

Sometimes emotions are not as easy to describe as simply “happy” or “sad”.

You may feel multiple emotions at once, and this is what you would classify bittersweet as.

Being in touch with your emotions is always important, and so is understanding what each emotion means.

It’s important to be able to connect with others through being vulnerable with your emotions when you speak English.

Your emotions help you in conversations, in working through everyday scenarios, and also in making and keeping connections in English!


If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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