Express yourself! (Showing and not showing emotions, Part 1)

two women hugging each other and laughing

by Kate Woodford

This week I’m looking at the language we use to describe how people express (or don’t express!) emotions. It’s an interesting area with a range of words and phrases so I’ll present the information in two parts, Part 1 and Part 2.

We’ll start with some nice adjectives. A person who is demonstrative freely shows love and affection for other people, for example by hugging them: We weren’t a very physically demonstrative family.

Expressive means ‘showing what someone feels or thinks’ and applies, for example, to faces, eyes and hands: She has a wonderfully expressive face.

Conversely, a face or voice that is expressionless shows no emotions: He sat hunched and expressionless during the five-minute hearing. / She has a rather flat, expressionless voice.

If someone’s face is impassive, they are showing no emotion and no response to what is happening at the time: He looked pale and impassive, sitting next to his lawyer.

The adjective blank is also used for a face that shows no emotion, with the additional meaning of ‘showing no interest or understanding’: I’ll always remember the child’s blank stare.

Meanwhile, someone who is stolid never shows emotion or excitement, in a way that is rather boring: Her husband was a rather stolid man.

Let’s turn now to verbs in this area. If you vent a negative emotion, such as anger or frustration, you show it, sometimes in a slightly uncontrolled way: A lot of supporters used the forum to vent their frustration. This verb is also used intransitively: I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to rant – I’m just venting. The phrase give vent to is also used with the same meaning: Fed up with not being listened to, they gave vent to their anger.

Meanwhile, if you radiate an emotion, especially a positive one, or that emotion radiates from you, you show it very clearly: Life is clearly suiting her – she radiates contentment. / She smiled, happiness radiating from her.

If you betray a feeling, your face shows that feeling, even though you try not to let it: His eyes betrayed his relief. / If she felt at all nervous, her face did not betray it.

To conceal a feeling is to hide it from others: She smiled in an attempt to conceal her irritation. If you suppress an emotion, you prevent yourself from feeling or showing it: I tried to suppress my annoyance. / She could no longer suppress her excitement.

I hope you’ve learnt some new words or senses in this ‘expressing emotion’ post. In Part 2, I’ll take a look at idioms and phrasal verbs in this area.

15 thoughts on “Express yourself! (Showing and not showing emotions, Part 1)

  1. Assei

    Thanks Kate. What comes to my mind is also the words “emotionless”/”unemotional”. Could you by any chance tell me if they are similar to or different from “expressionless”?

  2. Arlo

    It is absolutely superb. The most I liked was “give vent to something” or venting your feelings on something or someone. It reminds me when my mum was venting her frustration about often her job on us (her family).

Leave a Reply