My student told me a story about a minor accident she had. She was running in the park and twisted her ankle. She wanted to tell me how it felt, but she couldn’t find the right words.
Describing pain in Japanese can be very simple. One word – 痛い (itai) – can go really far. However, in English we have a variety of ways to express pain. To sound natural, we should use the best word for each situation.
As a bonus, using these words is a good way to practice basic English grammar.
Here are the most common words for talking about pain:
“Pain” is a noun (名詞 – meishi). So we can make phrases using this structure:
I have pain in my ____.
Some common phrases using “pain”:
I have pain in my back.
I have pain in my knee.
“Sore” is an adjective (形容詞 – keiyoushi). So, we can make phrases like this:
My _____ is sore.
I have a sore ______.
Some common phrases using “sore”:
My back is sore.
I have a sore throat.
My ankle is sore.
I have a sore finger.
“Hurt” is a verb (動詞 – doushi). So, we can make phrases like this:
I hurt my ___.
My ___ hurts.
Some common phrases using “hurt”:
I hurt my back.
My arm hurts.
“Ache / Aches” is a noun and a verb. As a noun, we make phrases like this:
I have a headache.
As a verb, we make phrases like this:
My ___ aches.
Here are more nouns using “ache”:
- Toothache *Not
Natural English for talking about pain:
There are some phrases used to express pain in a more natural way. Here are some examples:
Ouch! – We can use this word when we feel the pain. If you hit your knee on your desk, you say: “Ouch!”
Ow! – We can use this in the same way as “Ouch!”
Kill(s) – We can use this word to talked about extreme pain in casual situations. “Kill” is a verb. We can use it the same way as “ache”. But, we can’t use it with combinations:
headkill, stomachkill, etc.
My neck kills.
We can also say this:
My ankle is killing me.
Other verbs to express pain:
Sting(s) – feels similar to lemon juice on a cut.
→ I got shampoo in my eyes – it stings!
Burn(s) – it is the feeling of fire on your skin.
→ I put tiger balm on my neck – it burns!
Throb(s) – it is pain that increases and decreases when your heart beats.
→ My tooth is throbbing. I should go to the dentist soon.
So, how are you feeling today? I hope you don’t have to talk about pain often. But, if you do, now you know how.
Everybody be careful out there!