The Italian language has many words and synonyms to express many different concepts, even emotions. If you think about it, it makes sense that there are many synonyms to express joy, because it’s the most common one… but what about sadness? I mean, how do you put into words that simple sentiment, other than the usual “SONO TRISTE” (I am sad)? I know, it’s really hard to think about it on the spot… and this is why I wrote this article and put together a list of 11 expressions to express this feeling!


Like all other emotions, this one can be lived with different degrees of intensity, and in Italian there are many valid alternative expressions of “I’m sad”. They can be used to avoid repetitions, even when we don’t feel our best! Are you ready to discover them together?

1 – “SONO A PEZZI” (I feel exhausted/devastated)

If we siamo (or ci sentiamo) a pezzi, it means that we feel like we don’t have energies, we feel tired and shattered for what has happened to us.

For example:

A lavoro oggi non poteva andare peggio di così: ho sbagliato la presentazione, il mio capo ci ha tolto il progetto e i miei colleghi se la sono presa con me. Sono a pezzi

(“Today at work it couldn’t have gotten any worse: I messed up the presentation, my boss took the project away and my colleagues blamed me. I’m devastated.”)

2 – “HO IL MORALE A TERRA” (I’m in low spirits)

In Italian, the term “morale” is connected to our mood, our emotional state. When the morale is high (morale alto), we feel happy – it’s not by chance that we say “risollevare il morale a qualcuno” to indicate when we help somebody find their peace: “risollevare” means boost or raise!
On the contrary, when the morale is low (morale basso), we feel sad. If it’s “a terra” (meaning “on the ground”, the lowest it can be), it means that we feel even sadder than normal!

For example:

Ieri ho scoperto di non poter più partire per New York e in più ho anche litigato con la mia migliore amica. Ho il morale a terra.

(“Yesterday I found out I can’t go to New York anymore, and I even argued with my best friend. I’m in low spirits.”)

3 – “SONO DI MALUMORE” (I’m in a bad mood)

This expression indicates a more or less momentary mood caused by sadness, melancholy, or dissatisfaction – it usually lasts an entire day. People often don’t know the cause; they just experience it.

For example:

Oggi sono di malumore: sarà la pioggia, sarà il freddo, sarà il fatto che non posso vedere i miei amici… Ma oggi va così. Non parlatemi.

(“Today I’m in a bad mood: it may be the rain, the cold, or the fact that I can’t see my friends… but this is how things go today. Don’t talk to me.”)

4 – “SONO GIÙ DI MORALE / DI TONO / DI CORDA” (I’m in a bad mood/out of sorts/ down in the dumps)

These three expressions are similar to “avere il morale a terra.” Let’s take a closer look…
Essere giù di morale” is connected to the previous expression and to the concept of “morale” – there’s nothing odd, is there?
Things get a little bit more unusual when we talk about the expression “essere giù di tono“, because the latter term has two meanings: if we interpret “tono” as tone/shade, it could mean that our mood has lost some color, that it’s gray or opaque due to sadness; but we could also interpret it with reference to the musical term – in this case, it would mean that the volume of our mood is lower, or that it’s less “high” or “intense”.
So far so good, right? Well, the third expression – “essere giù di corda” – is the least understandable at first glance, and there’s a good reason why: it comes from the clocks world, and it refers to the corda (rope) that was used to wind clocks up. Basically, if the rope reached the bottom, the clock had to be wound – this is why “essere giù di corda” means feeling tired, powerless.

For example:

Ultimamente vedo Roberto sempre giù di corda: sarà che ha dei problemi con sua moglie…

(“Lately Roberto seems constantly out of sorts. It may be because of the issues he has with his wife…”)

5 – “SONO AFFRANTO / AFFLITTO / DESOLATO” (I’m broken/distressed/desolate)

Affranto, afflitto and desolato are all adjectives that apply to someone who is worn out, broken with pain or sorrow due to something or somebody, and they are almost completely unable to react.

For example…

Ero così affranta dopo la notizia della sua morte che non sono più riuscita a parlare al telefono.

(“After the news of his death, I was so broken I couldn’t talk on the phone anymore.”)


Incredibile come Marta ci abbia preso in giro per tutto questo tempo. Sono proprio desolata. Ancora stento a crederci.

(“It’s incredible how Marta was fooling us the whole time. I’m really desolate. I still can’t believe it.”)

6 -“SONO AVVILITO / AMAREGGIATO” (I’m disheartened/embittered)

These adjectives indicate a state of deep discouragement, dejection. Generally, they’re used when a few several negative things happen in a row, or when we are disappointed in something or someone.

For example:

Ieri Luigi era davvero avvilito. Ha inviato il suo curriculum a tante aziende, ma nessuna lo ha richiamato.

(“Yesterday Luigi was really dispirited: he sent his CV/résumé to many companies, but none of them called him back.”)

7 – “SONO MALINCONICO” (I’m melancholic)

Melancholy is a feeling that is similar to sadness, but it makes a particular reference to the past. Let me explain: we say we are melancholic when we’re sad because we miss something that there was once, and it made us feel good, but we can’t get it back anymore. As a consequence, there’s an intolerance of the present, a dissatisfaction towards what we are experiencing right now.

For example:

Oggi sono andata a riprendere tutte le foto di quando ero piccola… Quanti ricordi belli! Quante persone, quante risate… Era una vita più semplice ma anche più ricca. Adesso sono un po’ malinconica

(“Today I went to get all the pictures from when I was a kid… such great memories! So many people, so many laughs… It was a simpler yet richer life. Now I’m a little melancholic…”)

8 – “SONO DEMORALIZZATO” (I’m demoralized)

When should you use the adjective “demoralizzato“, then? Well, we use it mostly when we are sad because we have lost confidence in ourselves, our abilities, or something or someone else – maybe due to a betrayal, a failure, or some terrible news. What we want to communicate is that we don’t have any strength left to keep fighting.

For example:

Dopo anni dentro e fuori dagli ospedali, i risultati delle analisi di Silvia ancora non sono buoni. Deve essere piuttosto demoralizzata. Più tardi la chiamo.

(“After years getting in and out of hospitals, Silvia’s test results are still not good. She must be rather demoralized. I’ll call her later.”)

9 – “A MALINCUORE” (with a heavy heart /unwillingly / begrudgingly/ reluctantly)

Be warned, this expression is not used exclusively to describe our emotional state of sadness, but also to indicate that such state is caused by another action (expressed by a verb, which is always present near “a malincuore” given that it’s an adverb!). This means that you cannot use “a malincuore” to answer the question “How are you?”, for example – you must use it only to specify that we are doing a certain thing (expressed by the verb) even though it makes us sad.

For example:

Molti giovani italiani non trovano lavoro qui e quindi devono trasferirsi, a malincuore, all’estero.

(“Many young Italians don’t find a job here, so they have to move abroad with a heavy heart.”)

10 – “MI PIANGE IL CUORE” (it breaks my heart)

This is another expression that can’t simply be used to answer to “How are you?” – it’s used to indicate a state of mind of great displeasure towards something we have to do, or that we see happening.

For example:

È vero: tua moglie ti ha lasciato, ma devi riprendenti! Mi piange il cuore a vederti così, però la vita va avanti.

(“It’s true, your wife left you… but you have to get it together! It breaks my heart to see you like this, but life goes on.”)

11 – “SONO DISPIACIUTO / MI DISPIACE” (I’m sorry/ I feel sorry)

Similarly to the two previous expressions, this one highlights a person who is sorrowful and sad because of something specific, something that they have done or that has happened.

For example:

Ha subito, ingiustamente, un grave torto e sono dispiaciuta per lui.

(“A great injustice has been done to him and I feel sorry for him.”)

…or even…

Mi dispiace doverti licenziare, ma hai tradito la mia fiducia.

(“I’m sorry I have to fire you, but you have betrayed my trust.”)

Well, that’s all for this lesson. Let me know if you have liked this article, and if you found it useful. Did you already know all these expressions? If so, you might be interested in the article about the alternatives to “SONO FELICE” (I’m happy).

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