the difference between words: moved, touched and impressed

Recently one of my students asked me what the difference was between “moved”, “touched” and “impressed”. It seems there is a lot of confusion about these words especially in Japan, so that’s what I’m going to write about today.

We use the word “moved” to talk about something that affects us emotionally. Things that can move people are books, movies, songs, etc. For example:

I’m really moved by the new song by Mark Taylor. The lyrics are so beautiful.

I was really moved by the scene in that movie in which the boy finds his lost dog and hugs him.

We use the word “touched” to talk about a situation in which a person does something considerate for us without being asked to do it. For example:

I was really touched when Jerry brought me a cup of tea because I said I had a sore throat. That was really thoughtful of him.

Julia made me a sweater for my birthday and it took her over six months to make it! I was so touched when she gave it to me!

Finally, we use the word “impressed” to talk about something that was done skillfully. For example:

I was very impressed with the work you do on the ABC project. Keep up the good work!

Did you know that  Vic plays the piano? I heard him play last night, and I was really impressed!

The examples that I’ve given you are all adjectives with -ed endings. That means that we always use these words with a person as the subject. Therefore we CANNOT say, “It was very moved.”, “It is touched.”, or “It was so impressed.” If we want to talk about the situation, we use “moving”, “touching” and “impressive”. For example:

The ending of that book was very moving.

When the singer won her award, the host gave her a hug. It was a very touching gesture.

The special effects in that movie are extremely impressive.

Please note that the words “moving” and “touching” can be used in that same way to describe something that affects us emotionally. However, when we use the word “touched”, it’s usually for a more personal situation in which someone has done something thoughtful for us.



  1. Chie Said:

    So, I am usually moved by a movie or a book and “touched” is not used for that. However, I can use “moving” and “touching” to describe a movie or a book. Is my interpretation right?
    I wrote an entry about “touching” and “moving” on Lang-8. Some English native speakers left their comment. Check it out if you have time.

    • Yes, in my opinion, that interpretation is right. Also, I checked out that website and I agree with what the other people were saying: if we say something is “moving”, it sounds deeper than if we say it is simply “touching”. I don’t know why we can use “touching” for a piece of entertainment, but not “touched”. It doesn’t make much sense but, in my opinion, that’s natural English.

  2. […] ニュアンスの違いの説明は、以下のサイトの説明を軸にして、他の文献も参考にしています。 […]

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