The affair left her emptier than she thought, guiltier than she thought.

I'm hesitant to write something like that. Because I think guilty in these situations is usually preceded with feel (e.g. ...feeling guiltier than...)?

  • 1
    Well you can use: 'The affair left her emptier than she thought, filled with guilt.' or The affair left her emptier than she thought, guilt-ridden.' . That really implies remorse for me. Apr 16 '15 at 13:26
  • It appears to me that the OP is looking for a way to use guilty as an adjective to indicate "remorse" without the "feel" verb.
    – Paul Rowe
    Apr 16 '15 at 14:04

Sure it's OK:

Southern Song - Page 66 Rosemary Laurey - 2005

Two students who'd “forgotten” homework got a sharper than usual reprimand before she realized she was taking her frustrations out in them. They settled in record speed, sensing her mood, and this left her guiltier than ever.

The latter is an ellipsis on:

This left her [feeling] guiltier than ever.


In my opinion, some nuance in meaning can be observed.

  • I feel guilty about forgetting her birthday.
  • I am guilty about forgetting her birthday. (stronger)

The idiom is to feel guilty (about something).


As @Marius indicates, it means feeling guiltier... That is the correct answer.

  1. However, by leaving off "feeling", and placing the emptiness and guilt outside of the characters mind (more than she thought), the feeling communicated by the writer can be made stronger. (Whether it is or not it depends on the context - the rest of the story.) A connotation might be conveyed to the reader that the guilt is real or almost real, not a mere, passing feeling.

    But this impression/sensation that the guilt is real is only a subjective feeling by the character (or is it? see #2, below). How real it is depends on where you are sitting. If you place yourself inside the character, it can be quite real.

    IOW, it is a literary device - the writer is letting you know that the character feels so empty and guilty that in a sense she determines that she is empty and she is guilty.

  2. The writer might also be being intentionally ambiguous here, giving the reader a hint that in a sense the character might really be empty and guilty. This could be a foreshadowing of things to come... Or it could just be the author playing with the reader, leaving things uncertain with regard to the character, at least for now.


There is a substantial difference between in meaning between being guilty, and feeling guilty, as any counsellor will tell you.

  • Being guilty means that you are actually responsible for something
  • Feeling guilty means that you have the feelings and emotions of responsibility.

To illustrate the differences:

  • A sociopath may not feel guilty at all, despite being guilty of something horriffic
  • Someone who thinks their actions justified might not also feel guilty, even if the law disagrees and pronounces them guilty
  • The mother of a child who comes to harm might feel guilty, even if there was nothing she could have done to prevent it. She is not guilty, but she feels guilty.

Sometimes it is implied that it's about the feeling rather than the fact, which I think is the case in your example.

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