Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Upset and Angry

Upset vs Angry

The English words “upset” and “angry” describe similar emotions but they are not quite the same. You cannot always use “upset” to mean “angry,” or vice versa. In general, “angry” is a stronger feeling, so you should use this word only in extreme situations. “Upset” can be applied to smaller, less intense emotions. The following article will define both words and give you collocations and example sentences to help you understand the difference between the two words.

Upset, pronounced /ˌʌpˈset/, is an adjective (a descriptive word) with one important definition for comparing to “angry.” The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Definition defines “upset” the following way:

[adjective] “unhappy or disappointed because of something unpleasant that has happened.”
In other words, “upset” is a somewhat sad feeling you get if something not nice happens. Do not use “upset” before a noun.
Collocations: “[to be/get] upset about [something]” or “[to be/get] upset that…”
Sample sentences:
I do not understand why you are so upset; it wasn’t that bad.
Jane was upset that Jeremy left before saying goodbye to her.
He was upset about the failed science experiment because he worked hard on it.
I’m upset that you forgot to pick me up from my piano lesson.

Angry, pronounced /ˈæŋɡri/, is also an adjective and the word has one definition that makes it different from “upset.” The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines angry in these ways:

[adjective] “having strong feelings about something that you dislike very much or about an unfair situation.”
Collocations: “[to be/get] angry with/at [somebody],” “[to be/get] angry about/for/over/at [something],” “[to make somebody] angry.”
Other forms: angrily [adverb], angrier [comparative], angriest [superlative]
Synonyms: “Mad” is more commonly used in American English to mean “angry”; the latter is more common in British English.
Sample sentences:
You make me angry when you tease me like that.
Many angry people gathered for the union strike.
Don’t be angry with me, but I broke a glass.
I am so angry about all the starving people around the world.

You can see from the above that upset and angry mean almost the same thing. Though both are negative emotions, there are a few key differences:
Being angry is a stronger, more aggressive emotion. When you are angry, you might want to yell, fight, or throw something.
Being upset is a sadder, gentler emotion that we show. When you are upset, you may want to cry or curl up in bed until you feel better.
Being angry is associated with annoyance and dislike; being upset is associated with disappointment and hurt.

If you are angry you are probably also upset, but you are not necessarily angry if you are upset. Being very upset can lead to becoming angry. For example, if you have some personal disappointment, such as not saying goodbye to a friend or doing poorly on a test, you probably get upset. You feel bad and down for a little while. In contrast, being angry is more reactive: something happens and you have very strong feelings about it that make you want to do something to fix the situation.

In general, you can use “upset” to describe most situations. Stay away from saying “angry” unless you are extremely upset.


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