"Sentir bon" vs "Se sentir bien" - The different meanings of the verb "sentir" in French

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).

Using "sentir" and "se sentir" in French

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 ce matin.My daughter doesn't smell good this morning.

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 in French)

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 Describing senses with "sentir" - The different meanings of the verb "sentir" in French

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Examples and resources

Mon fils était malade, mais il se sent mieux maintenant.My son was ill, but he feels better now.
Il sent bon.He smells good.
Comment est-ce que vous vous sentez ce matin ?How do you feel this morning?
Je me sens en pleine forme ce matin.I feel healthy/fit this morning.
Je me sens super bien aujourd'hui !I feel great today!
Il n'est pas seul, mais il se sent seul.He is not alone, but he feels lonely.
Ma fille ne sent pas bon ce matin.My daughter doesn't smell good this morning.
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.
Zoë se sent mal aujourd'hui.Zoë feels ill today.  
Zoë feels unwell today.
Ces fleurs sentent bon.These flowers smell good.
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