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Talking about general pains and aches

Posted By Manjusha, Filed in English Speaking

Here are some common expressions that you can use to describe general ‘aches and pains’.

General aches and pains
  • ‘I'm not feeling very well.’
  • ‘I think I'm going down with a cold. I've got a sore throat.’
  • ‘I've got a slight headache/ toothache / stomach ache / backache.’
  • ‘Are you getting enough sleep?’
  • ‘I'm not sleeping very well at the moment.’
  • ‘I feel a little faint.’
  • ‘I've got a nagging pain in my shoulder.’
  • ‘I've got a splitting headache.’
  • ‘I feel fine.’
  • ‘I always feel sleepy on Mondays.’
  • ‘I have a bit of a stomach bug.’
  • ‘I think I've got a bit of a temperature.’ ‘Why don't you go home and have a lie-down?’
  • ‘I am not feeling well. I must get some rest.’
  • ‘I've got a nasty cough.’
  • ‘You don't look very well. What happened?’ ‘I have a touch of flu.’
  • ‘You look a little pale.'
Grammar Notes

To talk about feelings that are going on at a particular moment, simple or progressive forms can be used.

  • I feel fine. OR I am feeling fine.
  • How do you feel? OR How are you feeling?

Ill and sick

Ill is often used to mean ‘unwell’ in British English. In American English ill is unusual except in a formal style. Note that we use ill after a verb.

  • She is ill.

In Attributive position (before a noun), many British people prefer to use sick. Sick is also the normal informal American word for unwell.

  • The President is sick.

Be sick can mean ‘vomit’.

  • I was sick three times in the night.
  • She is never sea-sick.
  • ‘I feel sick. Where is the bathroom?’


The names of illnesses are usually uncountable in English, including those ending in –s.

  • If you have already had measles, you can’t get it again.
  • There is a lot of flu around at the moment.

‘The’ can be used informally before the names of some common illnesses such as the measles, the flu; others have no article.

  • I think I have got (the) measles.
  • Have you had chickenpox?
Minor ailments

The words for some minor ailments are countable: e.g. a cold, a sore throat, a headache. However, toothache, earache, stomach-ache and backache are more often uncountable in British English. In American English, these words are generally countable.

  • I have got a horrible cold.
  • Have you got a headache?
  • I am getting toothache. (GB)
  • I am getting a toothache. (US)

More English speaking lessons
Hopes and expectations
Talking about the weather
Giving opinions
Talking about general likes and dislikes
Focusing and linking ideas
Contrasting points
Talking about ability
Showing exphasis




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