A volte avevo la sensazione che lui fosse a un passo da me. Altre volte, mi sembrava di girare in cerchio...

In French, "impression" is about how you feel mentally and emotionally, while "sensation" is more about what you feel physically. I wonder if the same distinction applies to Italian? How does the sentence above compare to:

A volte avevo l'impressione che lui fosse a un passo da me. Altre volte, mi sembrava di girare in cerchio...

On another note: Is "sembrare" closer in meaning to "avere l'impressione" than to "avere la sensazione"?

  • I'm not sure there is such difference in French....
    – alexjo
    Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 9:51
  • Reading the definitions of "sensation" and "impression" in a French dictionary, I agree with @alexjo: I do not see such a difference in French.
    – Charo
    Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 12:33
  • @alexjo and Charo These might help: forum.wordreference.com/threads/… forum.wordreference.com/threads/sensation-sentiment.2364376 ("sentiment" is close to "impression") Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 13:00
  • @Alone-zee They are talking about sentiment and sensation relating to emotions (psychology) and so the have different nuances. But if we concentrate our attention to the domain of knowledge, impression, sentiment and sensation are synonyms and the choice is based on stylistic reasons.
    – alexjo
    Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 13:37

1 Answer 1


In the 2011 reprint of the 12th edition of the Zingarelli dictionary, published by Zanichelli, you can read:

impressione - sensazione
Una sensazione fisica o una reazione psichica provocata da uno stimolo esterno si dice impressione; correntemente il termine indica una reazione psicologica immediata che determina un primo giudizio non sostenuto da elementi razionali, oppure un'opinione soggettiva formata sulla base di impulsi indefiniti. Sensazione è in senso proprio uno stato di coscienza determinato da uno stimolo materiale, organico (caldo, freddo, fame); correntemente il termine è usato, come impressione, per indicare qualsiasi stato fisico-psichico.

My translation:

impressione - sensazione
A physical sensation or a psychic reaction provoked by an external stimulus is called "impressione"; usually this term indicates an immediate psychological reaction that determines a first judgment not supported by rational elements, or a subjective opinion formed on the basis of indefinite impulses. "Sensazione" is, in the proper sense of the word, a state of consciousness determined by a material, organic stimulus (hot, cold, hunger); usually this term is used, as "impressione", to indicate any physical-psychic state.

So, usually, this two words are used as synonims to indicate any physical or psychic state, but in the proper sense of these words have the difference of meaning mentioned above. That is, normally one would perceive these two sentences

A volte avevo la sensazione che lui fosse a un passo da me


A volte avevo l'impressione che lui fosse a un passo da me

as equivalent.

  • 1
    The same description is in the Zingarelli 2018.
    – alexjo
    Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 19:02

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