Archive for February 24, 2010

the difference between words: upset, sad and angry

upset

Today, I’d like to deal with a common misunderstanding of the meaning of the word “upset”. Many people think that it means that someone is sad or angry, but it is different from both of these words. Basically, to be upset means to react to a negative situation in a very emotional way. For example:

I just found out I failed my exam, so I’m really upset now.

Everyone is upset today because the boss just cancelled the year end party.

I’ll be so upset if it rains tomorrow for our picnic. I’m really looking forward to it.

Carol is really upset now because the boss just fired her.

That little boy in the corner is crying very loudly. I wonder why he is so upset.

In these examples, we don’t use the word “sad” because the people are showing their emotions more openly. Sadness is a very internal feeling in which we don’t show strong emotions. Also, feelings of sadness usually last for a longer time. For example:

My wife has been so sad since her mother died. I wish I could do something to make her feel better.

At the end of the movie, the main character dies. It always makes me sad when I see it.

On the other hand, “angry” is used when a person or group does something bad to us and we react to that negative action. For example:

My co-worker stole my idea and told the boss it was his! I’m so angry at him right now!

The government is raising out taxes again! That makes me so angry!

I hope that helps everyone understand how to use “upset”. In my understanding, the Japanese language does not have an exact translation for this word and the closest words to it are “sad” or “angry”. However, as you now know, it’s quite different. This might be true in other languages as well. So, when you need to find the meaning of an adjective, please use an English-English dictionary only. If you use a translation dictionary, such as a Japanese-English dictionary, you will probably misunderstand the true meaning of the word in English.

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