Feeling or thinking?

In modern English, the verb ‘feel’ is commonly used – misused, I would say – as a synonym for ‘think’ or ‘believe’.  It sounds softer, but it means the same. Luckily there are semantic features which give away this usage. Any time ‘feel’ is followed by ‘that‘, ‘like‘, ‘as if‘ or by a personal pronoun, we are in the realm of ‘thoughts-dressed-up-as-feelings’.

I feel that you’re not really listening to me
I feel like I’m never going to get anywhere with this job

I feel (that) you’re out of your depth

This construction seems to be a way of avoiding taking responsibility for our actual feelings, while at the same time giving added status to what are, after all, simply opinions. Perhaps we hope that people may be less ready to argue with us if we claim that our opinions and assumptions are actually feelings?!  “I feel that…” is also used as a way in to making even more judgmental assertions which might sound too stark on their own. “You should take better care of your teeth!” sounds to me like a pretty intrusive statement, while “I feel that you should take better care of your teeth” could almost sound caring, although it says exactly the same thing and expresses no feelings at all.

Most confusing of all is “I feel a need to..”, which conceals feelings and needs, while using both the keywords!
e.g.“I feel a need to remind you that the terms of our agreement state clearly that…” – no feelings, no needs expressed, and I suspect a demand is on its way!

Somewhat harder to detect and equally pernicious is the misuse of ‘I feel’ with certain adjectival past participles which don’t describe actual feelings but rather consist of interpretations at best, and accusations at worst.

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