Human emotions are complex and require many different words to describe the feelings you experience. “Nostalgic” is an adjective that describes a unique emotion you might experience when thinking back on fond memories of the past. So, is it correct to say “feeling nostalgic” when talking about this emotion?
Yes, it is correct to say “feeling nostalgic.” You can use this phrase as an adjective phrase, gerund phrase, or subject complement, and you’ll most commonly use it in a casual or intimate setting. For example, you can say, “I am feeling nostalgic,” when you feel happiness and sadness about something in the past.
Below, we’ll help you learn what this phrase means and how you can use it correctly in everyday writing and conversation.
What Does “Feeling Nostalgic” Mean?
“Feeling nostalgic” means “undergoing the passive experience of feeling both happy and sad when thinking about things from the past.”
Let’s break it down by each word to understand this definition further. “Feeling” is a present participle verb. In this context, the root verb “to feel” means: “to undergo the passive experience of” or “to have one’s sensibilities markedly affected by” (source).
In English grammar, “feel” and “feeling” describe one’s state of being, hence the “passive experience of” definition above. Whoever is “feeling” as a verb is not doing anything actively – they are experiencing.
The word “nostalgic” is an adjective meaning “feeling happy and also slightly sad when you think about things that happened in the past” (source). So nostalgia is sparked by something in the moment that relates to or reminds one of something in the past – particularly happy memories, which you are sad have passed.
So, when one is “feeling nostalgic,” something in the present has reminded them of a happy memory. They are glad to remember the memory but sad that it can only be a memory – it is likely impossible to relive that moment in the future.
How Do You Use “Feeling Nostalgic”?
You’ll often use “feeling nostalgic” as a subject complement. In this case, you will use it to describe the sentence’s subject. You can also use it as a gerund phrase, which acts as a noun or as an adjective phrase.
As mentioned above, “feeling” is the present participle form of the verb “to feel.” A present participle is a verb form that ends in -ing and can function as a verb, a gerund, or an adjective (source).
Pairing a present participle with a linking verb, such as “ to be,” creates a progressive verb. For example, “is feeling” is an example of a present progressive verb because the linking verb is in the present tense. On the other hand, “was feeling” is an example of a past progressive verb because the linking verb is past tense.
When you pair a present progressive linking verb and an adjective, the adjective functions as a subject complement to describe the subject of the sentence. You can do this using a past progressive, present progressive, or future progressive verb, but you must use a stative verb (feel, smell, know, wish, understand, etc.).
- The bride’s parents were feeling nostalgic at the rehearsal dinner.
- She is feeling nostalgic as she drives past her family’s old house.
- I will be feeling nostalgic later when I watch my favorite childhood movie.
In the last sentence above, “will be feeling” is the verb, and “nostalgic” is the subject complement modifying the subject, “I.”
Using a present participle and an adjective together in one phrase creates an adjective phrase that describes the subject. Let’s look at how we use this type of phrase in a sentence.
- Feeling nostalgic, Emma cherished time with friends and family at her graduation party.
- The students, feeling nostalgic, signed yearbooks on their last day of school.
In addition to being a present participle, the word “feeling” is also a gerund. A gerund is a form of a verb ending in -ing that we use like a noun (source). When you pair it with another word, like “nostalgic,” they create a gerund phrase – a unit that acts as a noun.
- Feeling nostalgic can be an uncomfortable experience.
- Feeling nostalgic is a common emotion when you’re about to graduate.
When Can You Use “Feeling Nostalgic”?
You can use “feeling nostalgic” in the past, present, and future tenses to describe your emotions in various contexts. To do so, you will usually pair this phrase with a linking verb modified to be a particular tense.
In the present tense, you can use “feeling nostalgic” to describe your current emotions. For example:
- I am feeling nostalgic because of these photos.
- I am feeling nostalgic because of this heartwarming commencement speech.
You can also use feeling nostalgic in the past tense to describe a previous time when you felt nostalgic. Here are two examples with singular and plural subjects:
- I was feeling nostalgic when I looked through the box of old photos.
- My sister and I were feeling nostalgic as we reminisced about when we snuck out.
Lastly, you can use feeling nostalgic in the future tense to predict that you might feel nostalgic at a later date.
- I will be feeling nostalgic while going through this box of old photos later.
- We will be feeling nostalgic when we celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.
To change the sentence’s tense, you do not have to modify the phrase “feeling nostalgic”; instead, you modify the verb “to be” with which you pair the present participle “feeling.”
In What Context Can You Use “Feeling Nostalgic”?
Because we use “feeling nostalgic” to describe a personal feeling, you’ll most often use it from the first-person point of view in a casual or intimate setting.
You will almost always use the phrase “feeling nostalgic” to only describe your own feelings. This is because you cannot express others’ feelings unless you deliver a message on behalf of someone else or discuss a shared sentiment among a group.
Depending on the context, you could use this phrase in casual or formal settings. Still, you will most often use it in relaxed or intimate settings, as nostalgic feelings often relate to people with which you have close relationships, such as family and friends.
Using “Feeling Nostalgic” in a Full Sentence
There are several different sentence structures in which you might use “feeling nostalgic.” For example, you can use it as a gerund phrase, subject complement, or adjective phrase.
To use “feeling nostalgic” as a gerund phrase, you can put it at the beginning of the sentence and treat the phrase as a noun subject of the sentence. For example:
- Feeling nostalgic is not my favorite feeling.
- Feeling nostalgic can sometimes be uncomfortable.
You can also use “feeling nostalgic” as a gerund phrase that acts as the noun object in the sentence.
- Skylar’s least favorite part of holidays is feeling nostalgic.
- The best part of the wedding season is feeling nostalgic about the past.
To use “feeling nostalgic” as a subject complement, you will pair it with a subject and a linking verb so that the phrase describes the subject. Here are some examples:
- I am feeling nostalgic.
- Are you feeling nostalgic?
Lastly, there are several ways you might use “feeling nostalgic” in a complete sentence as an adjective phrase describing a person’s feelings. You might interject it within a sentence, such as in the following example:
- Don, feeling nostalgic, sang his daughter’s favorite childhood song at the wedding.
Or, you could also use it as an introductory phrase:
- Feeling nostalgic, Don sang his daughter’s favorite childhood song at the wedding.
When Not to Use “Feeling Nostalgic”
There are several instances when it would not be appropriate to use “feeling nostalgic.” First, you should avoid it when it doesn’t accurately describe your feelings. Also, you shouldn’t use it to describe inanimate objects or others’ emotions unless they have already expressed them to you.
Nostalgia is a particular emotion; you shouldn’t use this phrase if it doesn’t accurately describe your feelings.
Also, you should not use this phrase to describe items or instances other than your or someone else’s feelings. Because nostalgia is a human emotion, you cannot use this adjective to describe inanimate objects.
For example, instead of, “This moment is feeling nostalgic,” you should say, “I am feeling nostalgic because of this moment.”
Here’s another example: Instead of saying, “This heirloom is nostalgic,” you should say, “I am feeling nostalgic because this heirloom is sentimental to me.”
What Can You Use Instead of “Feeling Nostalgic”?
When “feeling nostalgic” is not the best phrase to describe your emotion, there are many other adjectives you can use. Likewise, there are better words and phrases to describe objects in a nostalgic moment, as we’ve outlined below.
If the word “nostalgic” is not an accurate description of your emotions, you could use one of the following phrases to describe your feelings better:
- Feeling sad
- Feeling happy
- Feeling lonely
- Feeling heartbroken
If you want to describe an item other than your feelings but use a description similar to nostalgia, you could use the following phrases:
- This moment is bittersweet. (Bittersweet is a synonym for nostalgic)
- This necklace is sentimental to me.
Adverb and Adjective Phrase
Adverb and adjective phrases are multiple words acting as one unit and part of speech in a sentence. We use these phrases to describe other words and add more detail as well as interest to an ordinary sentence.
Let’s start with the basics to understand how an adjective phrase is created. An adjective is a word we use to describe nouns, such as people, places, things, and ideas (source). Just as one word can be a descriptor, a phrase composed of multiple words can serve the same purpose.
An adjective phrase, which is simply an adjective composed of multiple words, allows you to provide a better and more accurate description. This will improve your writing or speech and offer more detail for the reader or listener (source).
Adjective phrases contain an adjective paired with modifiers and complements to form a descriptive phrase. Here are some examples of adjective phrases:
- They were not able to reach the summit due to the rough, hilly, overgrown trail.
- The lack of service industry workers is becoming problematic.
To learn more about adjective phrases, check out our article Is It Correct to Say “Well Received”?
Adverb phrases are very similar to adjective phrases. An adverb is also a descriptive word, but instead of describing nouns, they describe adjectives and verbs. For example:
- The runner was sprinting quickly.
Likewise, adverb phrases simply act as adverbs composed of multiple words and allow you to improve your description (source). Here’s an example of an adverb phrase that you might use in the sentence above:
- The runner was sprinting quickly down the track.
Learning how to use adverb and adjective phrases correctly will also allow you to improve your speech and writing. They will also give you tools to create more complex sentences that convey your message more accurately.
Prepositional phrases modify sentences adverbially or adjectivally. Check out this article to learn more about one such phrase: Is It Correct to Say “As Per Usual”?
A subject complement is a term or phrase following a linking verb or sense verb and gives us more information about the subject (source).
In the case of “feeling nostalgic,” the linking verb forms a progressive verb when paired with “feeling,” and “nostalgic” is the adjective that functions as a subject complement, like in this example:
- Sheila was feeling nostalgic as she completed a scrapbook of her son’s senior year.
In this sentence, “Sheila” is the subject, “was feeling” contains the linking verb, and “nostalgic” is the adjective and subject complement describing Sheila.
Usually, subject complements are adjectives, adjective phrases, nouns, or noun phrases that describe or modify the subject in some way. Here are several more examples of subject complements:
- A rehearsal dinner is a more intimate celebration with your closest family and friends.
- Dana is feeling lonely now that her children have moved away.
- The car was packed full for vacation.
“Feeling nostalgic” allows you to describe a specific emotion within various sentence structures. Because of the personal nature of this emotion, you will most often use this to express your own feelings in a casual or intimate setting.
You have the freedom to use “feeling nostalgic” as a gerund phrase, an adjective phrase, or a subject complement. Once you understand how to use “feeling nostalgic,” you can transfer this knowledge to other words and phrases to create new sentence structures and communicate effectively.