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As I've heard many people say "I feel you" without sexual connotation. But I am a bit uncomfortable to say that. When do you often use it? Do native speakers commonly use it?

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It's very informal and slangy to this American English speaker. I would not call it very common, but you might use it when sympathizing with someone's thoughts or emotions: "I can't believe Diane dumped me!" - "I feel you, man." – stangdon Feb 9 at 18:45
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One of the most famous comments of this sort over here (in the US) was when then president Bill Clinton said "I feel your pain." It even has its own meme, now. We often say, " I pain your feel" which is total nonsense, but common when we are joking around. "I feel you" is not a favorite expression of mine - to me it sounds sort of 'wussy'. – Msfolly Feb 9 at 19:16
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My experience as a native speaker of AE does not corroborate @Msfolly's comment. I've never heard I pain your feel and it's certainly not a commonly used phrase in pop culture or media. – Era Feb 9 at 21:33
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I agree with @stangdon above. It's best avoided unless you know whoever you're speaking to uses the expression themselves (and you want to express "dialectal solidarity"), or perhaps when "facetiously" aping the usage. Personally, I also experience "interference" from I feel for you. To me, that's a perfectly natural usage that means I have great sympathy for you [in your unenviable circumstances], where without the preposition there may be no element of sympathy/empathy at all (it's just an emphatic version of I understand you / agree wholeheartedly with you). – FumbleFingers Feb 9 at 21:42
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I'm pretty sure "I feel your pain" was around long before Bill Clinton and, quite frankly, I'm not even sure what instance Msfolly was referring to in which he used it (this could be because I tend to tune out politicians when they're obviously pandering, which seems to be most of the time.) At any rate, it's a relatively common phrase in the U.S. Like Era, I've never heard "I pain your feel." – reirab Feb 9 at 23:32
up vote 11 down vote accepted

It's very much slang. The person is trying to show empathy with the person or confirm agreement.

It could be interpreted as "I am understanding and feeling the same emotions as you", or simply "I understand and agree".

For the Sci-Fi nerds, it's a more casual version of Avatar's "I see you".

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+1. Actually, "I hear you" is more common in my experience, though it may have a connotation of not necessarily totally agreeing with the speaker. – Wayne Feb 10 at 1:57

It means they understand you. Another similar, but less awkward sounding phrase that would get the same meaning across would be

I get you.

But their isn't a reason behind those, it's just slang.

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Let me know if you 'feel what I'm saying'. ;) – Sam Harrington Feb 9 at 18:46

"I'm sorry," is usually appropriate when you are showing empathy over some misfortune, regardless of the level of formality. In this case, it's not an expression of guilt; it expresses that you wish the misfortune hadn't occurred.

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There's a lot of cases "I'm sorry" would not be appropriate for the same situations "I feel you" would be. For example "Pretty sure half the stuff on that exam was never covered in lecture" You would never say "I'm sorry" but an "I feel you" would be perfectly acceptable. – corsiKa Feb 10 at 1:16
    
@corsiKa I would absolutely say, "I'm sorry," in that situation. I'm not sure how it would be inappropriate. As far as I understand, it's very frequently used to express empathy, though admittedly, it would sound a bit more serious in that context. – jpmc26 Feb 10 at 1:21
    
If you have nothing to do with it, you might say, "I'm sorry for you" or "I'm sorry that happened to you" or the like, to avoid the ambiguity of a simple "I'm sorry", which could be taken to be an admission of responsibility. – Jay Feb 10 at 15:18
    
@Jay xkcd.com/945 – jpmc26 Feb 10 at 16:07
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@corsiKa I do hear, and do say "I'm sorry as an expression of empathy. Also, I could and HAVE used it in your "Pretty sure half the stuff on that exam was never covered in lecture" example. Sometimes, when someone is on a rant, it is the only thing TO say. I feel you would indicate that I have sympathy for you - "I'm sorry" just means that I feel bad for you, (even if I do not agree with you). Many people use it that way. It is, perhaps, becoming more uncommon, but most of our world is becoming more informal that way. – Msfolly Feb 10 at 17:26

It is common to say, "I feel for you" to mean, "I sympathize with your problem".

I don't recall ever hearing someone say "I feel you" to mean anything other than "I am touching you" (with some part of my body). It could be sexual, but not necessarily. Like if two people were stumbling around in a dark room, one might say, "Oh, I feel your foot" or some such.

I could imagine someone using the phrase like in Stangdon's comment, "Hey, I feel you, man." It intuitively makes sense to me, but I don't recall ever hearing someone say that.

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This is used pretty often, and basically means 'I agree with you'. It has nothing to do with sex, so don't use it in those circumstances. Just another one of those weird English phrases that caught on.

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