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

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.


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.


Q&A Forum 12 questions, 19 answers

LynetteA1Kwiziq community member

Smell better

Hi, I notice you can use "better" for feelings but what about for smell? How would you say, "It smells better"? Thank you!!!

Asked 1 month ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Lynette, 

You would say -

Ça sent meilleur    =  It smells better

Hope this helps!

Lynette asked:View original

Smell better

Hi, I notice you can use "better" for feelings but what about for smell? How would you say, "It smells better"? Thank you!!!

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StephenC1Kwiziq community member

Why can you not sat "I do not feel well" = "I feel unwell" ie "Je ne me sens pas bien" = "je me sens mal"

Asked 9 months ago
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

You can't?

Why can you not sat "I do not feel well" = "I feel unwell" ie "Je ne me sens pas bien" = "je me sens mal"

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OmkaarA1Kwiziq community member

Instead of saying il sent bon, can I say il sent la rose?

Instead of saying il sent bon, can I say il sent la rose?
Asked 10 months ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

HI Omkaar,

Yes, you could say that ...but as it is a euphemism it is more likely to be used in the negative sense.

Instead of saying il sent bon, can I say il sent la rose?

Instead of saying il sent bon, can I say il sent la rose?

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ShrutiA1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Les roses sentent bon. C’est Correct

Asked 1 year ago
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

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

-- Chris (not a native speaker). 

AurélieKwiziq team member
Yes, that's absolutely correct :)

Les roses sentent bon. C’est Correct

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Tom RuneC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Sentir bien

Could you say "je sens bien" to express "I have a good sense of smell"?
Asked 1 year ago
AurélieKwiziq team memberCorrect answer
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 !

Sentir bien

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

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ColleenA2Kwiziq community member

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 :-)
Asked 1 year ago
AurélieKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

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://progress.lawlessfrench.com/revision/grammar/ca-means-that-this-or-it-pronoun

Bonne visite au marché !

ColleenA2Kwiziq community member
Merci beaucoup, Aurélie

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 :-)

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LisaB2Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

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

I expect not!
Asked 2 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team memberCorrect answer
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 !
RonC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor
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
LisaB2Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
Merci Ron, I appreciate your answer. However there is a fixed case for sens la rose. Using 'sentir' to describe senses%252Fsearch%253Fs%253DSentir So I think I should not have been marked wrong!

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

I expect not!

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WilliamC1Kwiziq community member

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.
Asked 2 years ago
LauraKwiziq team member
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
EmilyA1Kwiziq community member
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.

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.

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WilliamC1Kwiziq community member

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.
Asked 2 years ago
RonC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor
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

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.

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RebeccaA1Kwiziq community member

Excellent lesson with clear instructions and exercises - thank you!

Asked 2 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team member
Merci beaucoup Rebecca ! Bonne journée !

Excellent lesson with clear instructions and exercises - thank you!

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Susan C1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

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?
Asked 3 years ago
LauraKwiziq team member
Exactly the same as between bon and bien: bon/mauvais are adjectives while bien/mal are adverbs.
Susan C1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
Got it. Merci.

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?

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JoakimC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

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")
Asked 3 years ago
LauraKwiziq team member
Bonjour Joakim, Thanks for your comment, we will make this clearer in the lesson.
AurélieKwiziq team member

Bonjour Joakim !

The lesson has now been updated to remove any ambiguity.
Please have a look: Using 'sentir bon' and 'se sentir bien'">Using 'sentir bon' and 'se sentir bien'">Using 'sentir bon' and 'se sentir bien'">Using 'sentir bon' and 'se sentir bien'

A Bientôt !

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")

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