Ich bin groß — I am tall.
Ich habe Hunger — I am hungry

How come haben has got the meaning am here?

Does the second line really mean I am hungry or I have hunger?

  • Do you see a different meaning in your both, last examples in the last sentence? Feb 1, 2017 at 4:34
  • There are a couple of more adjectives, that are connected with somatic sensations that can be constructed the same way. "Einen Durst haben" means to be thirsty. It is also possible to say "durstig sein" but that is uncommon. In the south (Austria Bavaria) they also say "Einen Schlaf haben" instead of "müde sein" for beeing sleepy.
    – Beta
    Feb 1, 2017 at 13:58
  • Voting to reopen. The two questions approach the problem from different angles and thus are not duplicates of another. This one presumes that ‘Ich habe Hunger’ were a direct translation of ‘I am hungry’.
    – Jan
    Feb 3, 2017 at 16:22
  • @Beta: Einen Durst haben ist aber ein Regionalismus und daher hier off topic, denn ohne ausdrückliche Frage danach geht es hier immer um Standarddeutsch. Durst haben würde ich gelten lassen - dass es häufiger ist als durstig sein würde ich gerne belegt sehen, offensichtlich finde ich das nicht. Feb 4, 2017 at 0:46
  • @userunknown Regionalismen sind off-topic, solange nicht explizit danach gefragt würde? Das sehe ich anders.
    – Jan
    Feb 5, 2017 at 21:39

2 Answers 2


As you guessed, the literal translation of the second line would be "I have hunger", while "I am hungry" can also be translated as "Ich bin hungrig".

Both variants are correct and appropriate, although "Ich habe Hunger" seems to be far more used (judged just by my feeling). But I would be surprised if someone would even notice you saying "Ich bin hungrig."

Besides the fact that the first one conceptualizes hunger as something you can have, you can possess and the second one expresses a state of you being, I do not really see a difference in the two german expressions. (And this difference in conceptualisation is just the same in german as in english.)

  • which one is more appropriate, Ich habe hunger or Ich bin hungrig? Jan 31, 2017 at 19:10
  • @InQusitive: I edited my answer to answer the question of your comment, too. Jan 31, 2017 at 19:17
  • Where I come from people more often say "Ich bin hungrig".
    – Sorona
    Jan 31, 2017 at 20:30

There is no German word hunger — only Hunger (note the capitalisation). Hunger, the German capitalised word, is a noun; not an adjective. Therefore, it is only logical that you have it as opposed to ‘being’ it. The direct translation of ‘Ich habe Hunger’ is indeed:

I have hunger.

The corresponding adjective is hungrig and it takes sein as you would expect.

Ich bin hungrig.

German is like English in this respect: If you are dealing with a predicative adjective, it must be joined to the subject by the copula sein. If you are talking about a state which is represented by a noun, you need to have or haben.

  • 1
    Ich bin Schwimmer. Schwimmer ist auch ein Hauptwort, kein Adjektiv. Ist es daher logisch, dass man Schwimmer hat, nicht ist? Feb 1, 2017 at 4:39
  • @userunknown Guter Punkt. Mein erster Gedanke: Dabei handelt es sich ja um einen Gleichsetzungsnominativ, der »mich« (die sprechende/schreibende Person) mit dem Substantiv Schwimmer gleichsetzt. Ich bin aber nicht der Hunger (das wäre einer der vier apokalyptischen Reiter), ich habe ihn nur (den Zustand, an/in mir). Bin ich damit dem Einwand begegnet, d.h. kann ich das so in die Antwort einbauen, oder habe ich wieder nur einen Schritt zu kurz gedacht?
    – Jan
    Feb 2, 2017 at 17:46
  • -1 since the answer is wrong and misleading. Feb 3, 2017 at 8:27
  • @jonathan.scholbach Can you elaborate any more than the point user unknown has raised? I would love to know more about where I am wrong and misleading.
    – Jan
    Feb 3, 2017 at 16:22
  • I just refer on the pount userunknown already has stated. To my eye you are supposed to give an answer which you are certain of. Answers shall be correct, If they aren't I downvote them. Feb 5, 2017 at 17:43

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