I have hot! 7 common expressions with AVERE in Italian

14th March 2023

Careful when saying “I’m hot” in Italian! Why? Find out how to avoid embarrassing mistakes by learning these expressions with AVERE (have) in Italian.

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If you ever find yourself in a heatwave in Italy, you might want to say “I’m hot”. 

Whatever you do, don’t say sono caldo. This could get you some funny looks because it means “I’m horny”! 

So what should you say instead? 

Italians say ho caldo, which literally means “I have heat”. 

There are quite a few common expressions which follow this pattern in Italian, whether you’re talking about your age, being hungry, or who’s right and wrong. 

That’s what this article is all about: you’ll learn 7 moments where you should say “I have” in Italian, instead of “I am” like you normally would in English. And pick up 4 bonus phrases that will help you sound really native. 

To get them right, you’ll need the verb avere in Italian, which means “to have”. 

But first, when does caldo have a risqué meaning? We’ll start here so you can avoid making Italians blush by accident! 

When is CALDO risqué? How can I avoid using it by accident?

Most of the time caldo means “hot” in Italian, as in: 

Il cibo è caldo = the food is hot

L’acqua è calda = the water is hot

As long as you’re describing an external temperature, something that’s “hot to touch”, you’re on safe ground. It’s unlikely that what you’re saying will be misinterpreted in a sexual way. 

You can even use it to describe skin temperature, for example, when someone has a fever: 

Sei caldo, prendo il termometro = You’re hot, I’ll get the thermometer 

No blushing here, because these sentences sound perfectly innocent to Italian ears. 

Caldo takes on a sexual meaning when we use it to describe internal feelings and sensations. This explains why, if you literally translate the phrase “I’m hot” into Italian, you’ll end up saying: 

sono calda/o = I’m horny

Italians avoid this confusion by using a different verb: avere (to have). So if you’re hot because of the weather, you should say: 

Ho caldo = I’m hot (literally “I have heat”)

This phrase will help you steer clear of any embarrassing mistakes. 

In the next few sections, we’ll look at a few details that will help you use this expression, and others like it, more confidently. 
The first one is a deeper understanding of the verb avere (to have) in Italian.

Conjugations of AVERE in Italian

So far, we’ve been using ho, which means “I have”. In Italian, the verb avere (to have) changes when we’re talking about different people. 

In fact, the word “conjugations” in the title of this section is just a fancy way of saying “different forms for different people”. 

Do you know the different forms? Let’s take a look at them now: 

AvereTo have
Ho*I have
Hai*You have - informal
Ha*S/he has; You have - formal 
AbbiamoWe have
AveteYou all/both have - plural, for 2 or more people
Hanno*They have

*Psst! In Italian, we don’t pronounce the “h” sound, so remember not to say it at the beginning of these forms. 

Now you know how to say that other people "have heat” too! 

Ho caldo = I’m hot (lit. I have heat)

Hai caldo = You’re hot (lit. you have heat)

Ha caldo = S/he’s hot (lit. s/he has heat) - also you formal 

Abbiamo caldo = We’re hot (lit. we have heat)

Avete caldo = You all/both are hot (lit. you have heat - plural)

Hanno caldo = They’re hot (lit. they have heat)

Keep this table as a reference, because it will come in handy for all the other expressions in this article too. All you need to do is match the form of avere to the person you’re talking about. 

HO FREDDO: I have cold

Great news! We see a very similar pattern with the word freddo (cold): 

Ho freddo = I’m cold (lit. I have cold)

So how would you adapt this expression to talk about different people? You’ll need the different forms of avere again: 

….

Ho freddo = I’m cold (lit. I have cold)

Hai freddo = You’re cold (lit. you have cold)

Ha freddo = S/he’s cold (lit. s/he has cold) - also “you” formal 

Abbiamo freddo = We’re cold (lit. we have cold)

Avete freddo = You all/both are cold (lit. you have cold - plural)

Hanno freddo = They’re cold (lit. they have cold)

….

Attenzione! The expression “I’m cold” or “you’re cold” etc. does exist in Italian, but the meaning is very different. In Italian, it means you have a cold personality: 

Maria è fredda = Maria is a cold/aloof person

Marco è freddo = Marco is a cold/aloof person

That means if you say sono fredda/o, you’re saying that you’re a cold or aloof person, not that you feel cold. To avoid confusion, every time you want to say you’re cold as in “brrrrr”, you’ll need to say “I have” cold: ho freddo. 

So now you know how to talk about “having hot” and “having cold” in Italian, let’s learn some more common phrases which work in the same way!

I have hunger! How to say “I’m hungry” in Italian

Italians love food, but they’re rarely hungry. Is it because they eat a lot of snacks? Nope! It’s because, literally speaking, they “have” hunger. 

Here’s how they say it: 

Ho fame! = I’m hungry (lit. I have hunger)

Turns out, Italians are rarely thirsty either! Instead they “have” thirst.

Ho sete! = I’m thirsty (lit. I have thirst)

Interestingly, we can say it like this in English too, for example, “I have a thirst for knowledge” or “I have a hunger for success”. The only difference is that in English, we tend to use these in a metaphorical way. 

In Italian, this is the normal, everyday way to say it. 

I have 45 years: Talking about age

Have you come across this one before? In Italy, age isn’t something you are, it’s something you have. 

Ho diciotto anni = I’m 18 (lit. I have 18 years)

Ho quarantacinque anni = I’m 45 (lit. I have 45 years)

Ho sessantatre anni = I’m 63 (lit. I have 63 years)

Quanti anni hai? = How old are you? (lit. How many years you have?)

Remember, when talking about age, we always need to include the anni (years) at the end: 

Don’t say: *ho quarantacinque 

Say: ho quarantacinque anni

In English you’re sleepy, but in Italian you “have sleep”

If you didn’t get enough sleep last night, you might be feeling sleepy. But to get it right in Italian, you’ll need to forget about being sleepy and talk about having sleep instead: 

Ho sonno  = I’m sleepy (lit. I have sleep)

Pronunciation Tip: Did you notice the double “nn” in sonno? In Italian, a double letter means you have to pronounce it for longer, so remember to really draw it out: so-N-N-o.

To get it right, you can try imagining many NNNNs, for example soNNNNNNNNNo, or even a little pause between them so-N-N-o. Both techniques work! 

If you’re feeling sleepy, it should be easy to take your time on this word… if you don’t, it could sound like sono, which means “I am” and wouldn’t work at all!

In English you’re afraid, but in Italian you “have fear”

Have no fear! See that? Turns out we can “have” fear in English, too. The main difference is that in English, we’re more likely to say “I’m scared” or “I’m afraid”. 

In Italian, on the other hand, “I have fear”, is the most common and standard way to say it: 

Ho paura = I’m afraid (lit. I have fear)

Time for another pronunciation tip! Did you notice all those tricky vowels in the middle? To pronounce paura like a native, you’ll need to really enunciate the “a” and the “u”: p-AAA-UUU-ra, not powra.

There’s nothing like a good song lyric to hardwire pronunciation into the brain, and happily there are loads of Italian songs that use this word. As a challenge, try listening out for how Lucio Battisti pronounces the word “paura” in his song: “Con il nastro rosa”.

Let’s recap quickly. You’ve learned 7 basic phrases with avere: 

ho caldo = I’m hot (lit. I have hot)

ho freddo = I’m cold (lit. I have cold)

ho fame = I’m hungry (lit. I have hunger)

ho sete = I’m thirsty (lit. I have thirst)

ho 40 anni = I'm 40

ho sonno = I’m sleepy (lit. I have sleep)

ho paura = I’m afraid (lit. I have fear)

Time for a few advanced bonus phrases that follow the same pattern. These ones will help you sound really native! 

In English you are right, but in Italian you “have reason”

Did you know? Italians are never right either. Not because they always make mistakes, but because they “have reason” instead. 

Ho ragione = I’m right (lit. I have reason)

Saying sono ragione would sound very strange indeed! “I am reason…”

It’s important to know how to say someone else is right too, of course. In Italian, “you have” is hai. So how would you say “you’re right”?

Hai ragione = You’re right (lit. you have reason)

And of course, although it’s not always easy to admit, we’re wrong sometimes, too. Well, except for Italians. They’re never wrong, because they “have wrong” instead! 

Ho torto = I’m wrong (lit. I have wrong) 

Hai torto = You’re wrong (lit. you have wrong)

Fun fact: the word “tort” also exists in English. We have the law of “tort”, which covers all the wrong doings people do in everyday life. The Italian word for “wrong” just has an extra -o at the end, torto. 

As it turns out, this -o ending is a very important detail to remember. Don’t make it feminine by accident, otherwise you’ll end up saying something very different: 

Ho torta = I have cake

This is one of Katie’s favorite mistakes that she still makes sometimes. 

In English you’re in a rush, but in Italian you “have rush”

Italians are famous for their relaxed way of living. And while it’s true that Italians are never in a rush, they do get busy sometimes! And when they do, you’ll hear them say that they “have rush”: 

Ho fretta = I’m in a rush (lit. I have rush)

Just remember that even if you are in a fretta, you should take your time with the double letter: fre-T-T-a

Italians are never hungover (but they can “have” a hangover)

Ho i postumi = I’m hungover (lit. I have the remains)

Our last phrase is one that Italians rarely need, given their restraint and moderation *ahem* when it comes to alcohol.

Ho i postumi is in fact a shortened form of the phrase:

Ho i postumi della sbornia

Which literally means: “I have the remains of drunkenness”. Thinking about the literal meaning, it’s a rather accurate description of what a hangover is!

One last mistake to avoid in expressions with AVERE

Did you notice that we haven’t talked much about masculine and feminine endings in this lesson? 

In Italian, we usually change the ending of adjectives (describing words) to agree with the person they describe. For example: 

Marzia è italiana = Marzia is Italian

Matteo è italiano = Matteo is Italian

But you don’t need to worry about that in this lesson, because they don’t change! For example: 

Katie ha caldo = Katie is hot (lit. Katie “has” heat)

Matteo ha caldo = Matteo is hot (lit. Matteo “has” heat)

In this case, caldo always ends in -o! Why is that? 

Because in expressions with avere, we’re not describing you. We’re talking about something you have. This means, we treat these words just like any other object! 

For example: 

Ho un biglietto = I have a ticket

Ho un libro = I have a book

Ho caldo = I’m cold (lit. I “have” cold)

In Italian, objects are either masculine or feminine (caldo happens to be masculine), but their gender always stays the same. It doesn’t change depending on who has it. 

Some words happen to be feminine, like paura. In this case, it always ends in -a: 

Matteo ha paura = Matteo is afraid (lit. Matteo “has” fear)

Katie ha paura = Katie is afraid (lit. Katie “has” fear)

Don’t stress too much about trying to remember whether caldo is masculine and paura is feminine. Just start learning the phrases as they are…

ho caldo  

ho paura 

…and you’ll be using them confidently in no time! 

Common expressions with AVERE in Italian: Review

You’ve now seen the main phrases where we use “I have” in Italian (even though we use “I am” in English). Let’s take another quick look at them: 

ho caldo = I’m hot (lit. I have hot)

ho freddo = I’m cold (lit. I have cold)

ho fame = I’m hungry (lit. I have hunger)

ho sete = I’m thirsty (lit. I have thirst)

ho 40 anni = I'm 40

ho sonno = I’m sleepy (lit. I have sleep)

ho paura = I’m afraid (lit. I have fear)

ho ragione = I’m right (lit. I have reason)

ho torto = I’m wrong (lit. I have wrong)

ho fretta = I’m in a rush (lit. I have rush)

ho i postumi = I’m hungover (lit. I have the remains)

You also learned how to adapt these phrases to talk about different people, for example: 

Hai ragione! = You’re right! (lit. you have reason)

Hai paura? = Are you afraid? (lit. you have fear)

Ha fame = S/he is hungry (lit. s/he has hunger)

Hanno torto = They’re wrong (lit. they have wrong)

Abbiamo i postumi = We’re hungover (lit. we have hangover)

All you need to do is change the form of avere. Here are all the different forms again so you have them handy: 

AvereTo have
HoI have
HaiYou have - informal
HaS/he has; You have - formal 
AbbiamoWe have
AveteYou all/both have - plural, for 2 or more people
HannoThey have

Finally, you learned that in expressions with avere, words like caldo and paura DON’T agree with the person who feels hot, afraid etc. 

Matteo ha caldo = Matteo is hot (lit. Matteo “has” heat)

Katie ha caldo = Katie is hot (lit. Katie “has” heat)

Matteo ha paura = Matteo is afraid (lit. Matteo “has” fear)

Katie ha paura = Katie is afraid (lit. Katie “has” fear)

These objects have their own gender: caldo is masculine, while paura is feminine. The last letter always agrees with the object, the thing we “have”, and not the person who has it. 

Phew, that was a lot to take in. But don’t worry, help is here! Head down to our quiz and vocabulary cards below. 

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Vocabulary: I have hot! Common expressions with AVERE in Italian

Ho caldo = I'm hot
Ho freddo = I'm cold
Ho 40 anni = I'm 40
Ho sete = I'm thirsty
Ho fame = I'm hungry
Ho sonno = I'm sleepy
Ho paura = I'm scared

Quiz: I have hot! Common expressions with AVERE in Italian

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Flashcards: I have hot! Common expressions with AVERE in Italian

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Transcript: I have hot! Common expressions with AVERE in Italian

Please note, this is not a word for word transcript.

K - There are lots of situations where Italians use “I have” - ho - but in English we say “I am”. Another example is age. 

M - Yes it’s true, in fact Italians often make this mistake the other way around, for example, we say “I have forty years”

K - Yes… because in Italian, we “have” our age, so we say - ho quarant’anni

M - It’s a topic that’s tricky for everyone. 

K - In fact, we already covered this topic back in episode 74. But it’s one that keeps coming up, and there are a few more common ones that are worth learning, so we thought we’d revisit it! 

M - What other ones are there? 

K - Hmm… well how about we listen to a typical conversation with a few examples?

M - OK!

K - As you’re listening, pay special attention to when you hear ho - “I have”, or hai - “you have”. 

K - Uff! Ho caldo.

M - Allora apro la finestra.

K - In realtà, ho sete.

M - Ecco, un bicchiere d’acqua.

K - Mmm… ma forse ho fame. 

M - Okay… cuciniamo qualcosa?

K - No. Ho sonno.

M - Hai caldo, hai sete, hai fame, hai sonno, altro?

K - ... 

M - No, no, no, non dire niente, ho paura.

K - OK, so breaking that down line by line, I said: 

M - Uff! Ho caldo.

K - Urg! I’m hot. Literally: 

M - 

Ho = I have

Caldo = Heat

K - Here’s another example of the phrase we heard at the beginning of the episode. To say “I’m hot” in Italian, we literally say “I have heat”

M - Ho caldo. 

K - This expression works the same way for cold. Cold is freddo. In Italian, we “have” it. So how would you say “I’m cold”, literally “I have cold”? 

M - Ho freddo.

K - Next, Matteo said: 

M - Allora apro la finestra.

K -  Well I’ll open the window. Literally: 

M -

Allora = well

Apro = I open 

La finestra = the window

K - Then I said: 

M - In realtà, ho sete.

K - Actually, I’m thirsty. Literally: 

M - 

In realtà = in reality

Ho = I have

Sete = thirst

K - And here’s another thing we have in Italian! We don’t say “I’m thirsty”, we say “I have thirst”. 

M - Ho sete.

K - Luckily, Matteo’s an attentive partner and he brought me over a glass of water: 

M - Ecco, un bicchiere d’acqua.

K - Here, a glass of water. Literally: 

M - 

Ecco - here

Un bicchiere = a glass

Di = of

Acqua = water

K - So before you heard ho sete. Literally “I have thirst”. There’s a similar expression that you might already know. I said it in the next phrase: 

M - Mmm… ma forse ho fame. 

K - Mmm… but maybe I’m hungry. Literally: 

M - 

Ma = But

Forse = Maybe

Ho = I have

Fame = Hunger

K - So the takeaway here, to think like an Italian, is to imagine that every time you want to say “I’m thirsty” or “I’m hungry”, you’re really going to say “I have thirst” and “I have hunger”. Interestingly, we can say it like that in English too sometimes, for example: 

“to have a real thirst for something”

 or “to have insatiable hunger”. 

The only difference is that in Italian, this is the normal, everyday way to say it. 

K - So ho fame, I’m hungry. Matteo’s tries to solve this problem too, by suggesting we cook: 

M - Okay… cuciniamo qualcosa?

K - Okay… shall we cook something? Literally: 

M - 

Cuciniamo = we cook 

Qualcosa = something

K - But then I said: 

M - No. Ho sonno.

K - No. I’m sleepy. Literally: 

M - 

Ho = I have 

Sonno = sleep 

K - Here’s another expression with “have” in Italian. We don’t say “I am sleepy”, instead, we say “I have sleep”. 

M - Ho sonno. 

K - Notice the double NN in soN-No. S - O - N - N - O. Double letters in Italian are nice and long. To draw them out like Italians do, you almost have to imagine a little pause in the middle. Try to say son-no, kind of pausing between the two N-Ns. Son-no.

M: SON-NO. SON-NO. SON-NO.

K - Next, Matteo says: 

M - Hai caldo, hai sete, hai fame, hai sonno, altro?

K - You’re hot, you’re thirsty, you’re hungry, you’re sleepy, anything else? Literally: 

M - 

Hai = you have

Caldo = heat

Hai = you have

Sete = thirst

Hai = you have

Fame = hunger

Hai = you have 

Sonno = sleep 

Altro? = other?

K - Here we’ve got the “you have” form, hai. 

M - Hai. 

K - You’ll most often hear this in questions, for example, are you hungry? Literally “you have hunger”? 

M - Hai fame? 

K - Coming back to our dialogue, Matteo’s losing patience, so after saying Altro? Anything else? He decides it’s best not to wait for an answer: 

M - No, no, no, non dire niente, ho paura.

K - No, no, no, don’t say anything, I’m scared. Literally: 

M - 

Non = not

Dire = to say 

Niente = nothing

Ho = I have 

Paura = fear 

K - So when you’re afraid or scared in Italian, you’re really saying you have fear.

M - Yeah, exactly. Also really important, all the vowel sounds of P-A-U-RA

K - Yeah, not “powra” but really emphasising the vowels.

M - pAAAUUUrA. 

K - So let’s review our phrases with “have”. Remember how to say “I’m forty”, literally “I have forty years?”

M: Ho quarant’anni.

K: I’m hot, “I have hot”? 

M: Ho caldo.

K: I’m cold, “I have cold”? 

M: Ho freddo.

K: I’m hungry, “I have hunger”? 

M: Ho fame.

K: I’m thirsty, “I have thirst”?

M: Ho sete.

K: I’m sleepy, literally, “I have sleep”? 

M: Ho sonno.

K: I’m afraid, “I have fear”? 

M: Ho paura.

K - Perfetto! Let’s listen to the whole dialogue one more time: 

K - Uff! Ho caldo.

M - Allora apro la finestra.

K - In realtà, ho sete.

M - Ecco, un bicchiere d’acqua.

K - Mmm… ma forse ho fame. 

M - Okay… cuciniamo qualcosa?

K - No. Ho sonno.

M - Hai caldo, hai sete, hai fame, hai sonno, altro?

K - ... 

M - No, no, no, non dire niente, ho paura.

K: So whether you “have” 18 years or 80 years, we hope you’re feeling more confident about using these phrases with “have” in Italian. To learn more expressions which follow this pattern and get bonus materials, like vocabulary cards and a quiz, head over to our website by clicking the link in the description. 

M: Or you can go to joyoflanguages.com/italianpodcast and search for episode 90. 

K: See you next time. Or as we say in Italian.

K, M: Alla prossima!

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