Using 'sentir bon' and 'se sentir bien'

The verb sentir and its reflexive form se sentir are used in a broad sense to express physical or emotional feelings (e.g. to smell good / to feel good).

Here is how to use them:

sentir bon / mauvais  (physical)

This means to smell good / bad.

Note that, in the specific case of sentir, even though bon and mauvais are adjectives, these are fixed expressions, so bon and mauvais NEVER change (no agreement).

Ces fleurs sentent bon.
These flowers smell good.

Mes chaussettes sentent très mauvais.
My socks smell very bad.

Ma fille ne sent pas bon aujourd'hui.
My daughter doesn't smell good today.

Il sent bon.
He smells good.


- se sentir bien / mal / mieux ... (emotional)

(literally to feel oneself)  It means to feel good / well / fine / bad / better.

In this context, se sentir is identical in meaning to aller. See Expressing how you are with aller (greetings)

e.g.  Je vais bien.  /  Je me sens bien.

Je me sens super bien aujourd'hui !
I feel great today!

Comment est-ce que vous vous sentez ce matin ?
How do you feel this morning?

Mon fils était malade, mais il se sent mieux maintenant.
My son was ill, but he feels better now.

Zoë se sent mal aujourd'hui.
Zoë feels ill today.  
Zoë feels unwell today.

Se sentir can also be used with adjectives to express someone's impression of how they are, how they feel

Il n'est pas seul, mais il se sent seul.
He is not alone, but he feels lonely.

Ils se sentent un peu déprimés ces jours-ci.
They feel a bit depressed these days.

Je me sens en pleine forme ce matin.
I feel healthy/fit this morning.


See also Using 'sentir' to describe senses

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Il sent bon.
He smells good.


Je me sens super bien aujourd'hui !
I feel great today!


Mon fils était malade, mais il se sent mieux maintenant.
My son was ill, but he feels better now.


Je me sens en pleine forme ce matin.
I feel healthy/fit this morning.


Ces fleurs sentent bon.
These flowers smell good.


Comment est-ce que vous vous sentez ce matin ?
How do you feel this morning?


Zoë se sent mal aujourd'hui.
Zoë feels ill today.  
Zoë feels unwell today.


Il n'est pas seul, mais il se sent seul.
He is not alone, but he feels lonely.


Ils se sentent un peu déprimés ces jours-ci.
They feel a bit depressed these days.


Mes chaussettes sentent très mauvais.
My socks smell very bad.


Ma fille ne sent pas bon aujourd'hui.
My daughter doesn't smell good today.


Q&A

Shruti

Kwiziq community member

3 March 2018

2 replies

Les roses sentent bon. C’est Correct

Chris

Kwiziq community member

5 March 2018

5/03/18

Yes, that seems correct. It means the roses smell good. 

-- Chris (not a native speaker). 

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

5 March 2018

5/03/18

Yes, that's absolutely correct :)

Tom Rune

Kwiziq community member

5 January 2018

1 reply

Sentir bien

Could you say "je sens bien" to express "I have a good sense of smell"?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

5 January 2018

5/01/18

Bonjour Tom !

Technically you could indeed, though it wouldn't be a very natural way to say this :)
As a native speaker, I'd rather say:
J'ai un bon odorat.
I have a good sense of smell.
Je sens bien can also mean I feel well, in a tactile sense:
Tu le sens ?
Do you feel it?
I hope that's helpful!
Bonne journée !

Colleen

Kwiziq community member

3 January 2018

2 replies

It smells good?

I know it seems a small question in the great scheme of things, but how would you say, « It smells good ». Would it be ce sent bon? Trying to think of a conversation opening sentence when I visit the local market :-)

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

3 January 2018

3/01/18

Bonjour Colleen!

There's no such thing as a small question :)
You would say "Ça sent bon."

Here's a link to our lesson on ça:
https://french.kwiziq.com/revision/grammar/ca-means-that-this-or-it-pronoun

Bonne visite au marché !

Colleen

Kwiziq community member

5 January 2018

5/01/18

Merci beaucoup, Aurélie

Lisa

Kwiziq community member

16 July 2017

3 replies

Instead of sens bon I answered Je sens la rose. I thought that was right.....?

I expect not!

Ron

Kwiziq community member

16 July 2017

16/07/17

Bonjour Lisa, Je sens la rose = I smell the rose on the other hand La rose sent bon = the rose smells good I hope that helps

Lisa

Kwiziq community member

16 July 2017

16/07/17

Merci Ron, I appreciate your answer. However there is a fixed case for sens la rose. https://french.kwiziq.com/my-languages/french/view/4733?rts=%252Fsearch%253Fs%253DSentir So I think I should not have been marked wrong!

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

17 July 2017

17/07/17

Bonjour Lisa !

The meaning is indeed there, however "je sens la rose" is a figurative expression, which you wouldn't really translate by the plain equivalent "I smell good", but by a similarly visual image (like heaven, like roses...).
The neutral way to express "I smell good" is "Je sens bon" :)

In the same way, you would translate "it's raining cats and dogs" by the simple "il pleut", but rather the equivalent colloquial expression "il pleut des cordes".
Bonne journée !

William

Kwiziq community member

27 May 2017

2 replies

Difference nuance in English between "I feel bad" and I feel badly"

How would express this in French. I follow the first as "je me sens mal" as in I do not feel well. The second expresses more of an emotion of how you feel. Thoughts.

Laura

Kwiziq language super star

28 May 2017

28/05/17

Bonjour William, In fact, even though it's often said, "I feel badly" is grammatically incorrect. "I feel bad" has both of the meanings you describe, as does Je me sens mal. https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/do-you-feel-bad-or-feel-badly

Emily

Kwiziq community member

29 May 2017

29/05/17

Hi William, "I feel badly" in English would refer to not being able to feel well, as in your sense of touch doesn't work well. I'm not sure if it translates into French similarly.

William

Kwiziq community member

27 May 2017

1 reply

Using "mal" or "malade" for the English term "unwell"

The correct answer was "Je me sens mal" for "I feel unwell". The discussion points to "mal" and "malade" for unwell. I think both should be correct answers. I chose incorrectly.

Ron

Kwiziq community member

31 May 2017

31/05/17

Bonjour William, Perhaps this will help some. it shows another way of looking at the difference between mauvais and mal. Mauvais Mal adjective bad (with noun) bad (with copular verb) adverb bad badly noun bad part evil(s) Let's take a look at this sentence: C' est un mode de traitement souvent mal supporté , du fait de la toxicité des médicaments anticancéreux pour les tissus sains. Salomon, Jean-Claude Le tissu déchiré. Propos sur la diversité des cancers Mal in this sentence is an adverbe translated as badley supported. Malade on the other hand, is used either as an adjective or as a noun. Now looking at the lesson, - se sentir bien / mal / mieux ... (emotional) (literally to feel oneself) It means to feel good / well / fine / bad / better. In this case, bien, mal and mieux are used as adverbes. I hope this helps, Ron

Rebecca

Kwiziq community member

15 May 2017

1 reply

Excellent lesson with clear instructions and exercises - thank you!

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

15 May 2017

15/05/17

Merci beaucoup Rebecca ! Bonne journée !

Susan

Kwiziq community member

25 September 2016

2 replies

I'm a bit confused as to when to use, "mal," and when, "mauvais," as they both mean, bad.

What are the rules or nuances?

Laura

Kwiziq language super star

27 September 2016

27/09/16

Exactly the same as between bon and bien: bon/mauvais are adjectives while bien/mal are adverbs.

Susan

Kwiziq community member

27 September 2016

27/09/16

Got it. Merci.

Joakim

Kwiziq community member

17 March 2016

2 replies

Agreement bon/mauvais

Exacrly when is it that bon and mauvais should not agree withe subject? If only when used with sentir, please make that more explicit (e.g "c'est une bonne voiture")

Laura

Kwiziq language super star

17 March 2016

17/03/16

Bonjour Joakim, Thanks for your comment, we will make this clearer in the lesson.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

17 March 2016

17/03/16

Bonjour Joakim !

The lesson has now been updated to remove any ambiguity.
Please have a look: https://french.kwiziq.com/revision/grammar/how-to-use-sentir-bon-versus-se-sentir-bien

A Bientôt !

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