Ich habe Durst.
Ich bin durstig.

Both of the above sentences, as I know, mean "I am thirsty".

In English, we often say S + be + Adj, but only in German do we say "I have thirst" or "I have hunger". The latter 2 just sound kinda weird in English even if they're grammatically correct.

As I'm learning German, I often see S + haben + N used instead of S + sein + Adj. I'm not sure if it's just because I'm a beginner or because the sources I use happen to use the 1st more.

My question: Of the 2 forms, S + haben + N and S + sein + Adj, is either of them more popular/common in spoken German than the other? Also, is there a general difference in meaning between the 2 (if both choices are possible for a word).

  • 2
    I have heard both "I hunger" and "I thirst" in English. It definately isn't in common user though. Generally used in a way to emphasize the extremety of the trait and likely playing off horror tropes, such as a Vampire's declaration of "I thirst!" Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 20:02
  • In the olden days "Mich dürstet" was also common.
    – RHa
    Commented Nov 8, 2019 at 21:15
  • FWIW in our script for "Cheaper by the Dozen" it was, "Ich bin durstig... das wasser ist kalt... das milch ist gut!" Commented Nov 8, 2019 at 22:22
  • @JohnZhau: but only in German... Why do you think so? In French you'd say J'ai soif/faim (I have thirst/hunger), in Spanish "Tengo sed/hambre* (I have/hold thirst/hunger). Commented May 6, 2020 at 6:07

9 Answers 9


In terms of proper meaning, the two sentences synonyms.

Remark however: your example sounds a bit strange because people usually do not tell other people that they (the people spoken to) were thirsty. In real-life situations you are more likely to speak about your own perceived state of hydration.

This said, if we are speaking about sentences like

Ich bin durstig vs. Ich habe Durst

in everyday situations, I would say, that "Ich habe Durst" is slightly more common, simply because it is the more lazy way (easier to pronounce, and, as commenter R. Schmitz points out: in everyday pronunciation one syllable less).

Speaking now of the question form, my feeling is that

Hast du Durst?

would be the more frequent form to ask.

But usage may differ in different parts of the country, or even in different milieux (parts of society).

By the way, asking "Hast du Durst?" may sound a bit rude. That's because it directly mentions bodily functions. A more decent way to ask would be

Möchtest du was trinken?

  • 3
    I changed it since I didn't mean to point out the use of "You" here, but rather the use of "haben" vs "sein". Commented Nov 6, 2019 at 14:26
  • @Christian, da hast du vollkommen Recht. Siehe meine Antwort für die Korpusbelege.
    – Dan
    Commented Nov 6, 2019 at 14:26
  • 1
    "Hast du Durst?" - "du" in lowercase, please - I do not think you write this in a letter or an e-mail. Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 9:58
  • 2
    "Ich habe Durst" is slightly more common, simply because it is the more lazy way (easier to pronounce) - especially if you consider colloquial/spoken German bringing it down to 3 syllables ("Ich hab' Durst"), while there's no syllables to take away from "Ich bin durstig".
    – R. Schmitz
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 13:54
  • @rexkogitans Da hast Du recht. Hab's geändert. Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 18:30

Of the 2 forms, S + haben + N and S + sein + Adj, is either of them more popular/common in spoken German than the other?

Your question sounds to be meant in general, not only in case of being thirsty.
But it strongly depends on the context.

  • Ich habe Durst - ich bin durstig. Both are valid, the first is more common.
  • Ich habe Hunger - ich bin hungrig. Both are valid, the first is more common.
  • Ich bin müde. There is no "ich habe Müdigkeit".
  • Ich habe Kopfschmerzen. There is nothing like "ich bin ...".

A corpus search shows that "du hast Durst" has 11 occurrences and "du bist durstig" only two in the corpus of the subtitles. Similar story with "refenz und zeitungskorpora", 4 against 1 respectively. (Sadly, the colloquial corpus is too small to have this recorded).

With "I" as the subject, it's 169 vs. 43 (see the two lowest links). So I think it's pretty safe to say "habe + Durst" is more common.

Considering the more general part of your question, if there is a general rule behind that, it is hard to say because it depends on the word. E.g. we would rather say "ich bin traurig" und nicht "du hast Trauer", so it all comes down to 1) defining the set of lexico-semantic entities sufficient to infer such a general conclusion from it 2) statistically analyze every single expression.

du hast Durst (film subtitles)

du bist durstig (film subtitles

With "Ich" as the subject:

ich habe Durst (film subtitles)

ich bin durstig (film subtitles)


My question: Of the 2 forms, S + haben + N and S + sein + Adj, is ... there a general difference in meaning between the 2 (if both choices are possible for a word).

If you think about haben vs. sein, it makes more sense to use haben referring to a state and sein referring to a general attribute. You can easily get rid of thirst by drinking something. So Durst is something that you have right now, not so much something that is part of you.


Er ist groß.


Er hat Größe.

Er ist groß is more about his hight. It's an attribute that won't easily change. Er hat Größe means something like showing strength of character. That's something one can easily lose (e.g. by getting arrogant based on hearing that to often).

Does that make sense?

Please don't take that as a general advice. There may be a lot of other examples where it doesn't apply at all.

As to your example: I would say, Ich habe Durst is more common.

In general I wouldn't compare English and German too much. It will only confuse you.

  • 3
    Your example is about a situation more complex than the Ich habe Durst vs. Ich bin durstig case. In the latter, the sentences are full synonyms; whereas your groß sein vs. Größe haben example features two expressions with different meaning, they are not synonyms at all. Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 18:36
  • @ChristianGeiselmann My answer is about the question S + haben + N vs. S + sein + Adj.. That's more complex than just talking about Durst indeed.
    – Olafant
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 19:17

As a native-speaker I can definitely assure you "Ich habe Durst" is the more frequently used term. "Ich bin durstig" seems not exactly old-fashioned but pretty formal.

Both the terms "Durst" and "Hunger" feel like special cases to me, because with other feelings, you would not often say S + haben + N when there is a perfectly fine and common adjective for feeling that sensation, although it's technically not wrong. You won't say "Ich habe Trauer", but rather "Ich bin traurig". However, there are words without corresponding adjectives, which again lead to the usage of e.g. "Ich habe Heimweh" or "Ich habe Schmerzen" in lack of a proper (or rather commonly used) adjective.


"Ich habe Durst" means "I am thirsty right now (and I want something to be done about it)". "durstig" is nowadays more used in a more literary context: "Er war durstig nach Wissen" (He was thirsty for knowledge)


You can also say “ich durste” (common), also “ich dürste” or “mich dürstet” (both a bit archaic).



“Mich dürstet” is what Christ says on the cross, according to Luther's translation.

  • 7
    "Ich durste" is not common at all. Where are you hearing this?
    – Bergi
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 0:39
  • 1
    It is in fact sometimes used, but never to literally express thirst, always to metaphorically express desire. And it's a deliberate archaic-sounding phrase, and it's usually in passive. “Mich durstet nach der Macht”, “Ihm durstet nach dem Golde”, that's something you might read... but hearing “ich durste nach 'ner Cola” would sound pretty odd. Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 9:02
  • 1
    This does not answer the question.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 11:05
  • @Bergi. The linked entry in DWDS says "häufig".
    – fdb
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 11:44
  • @leftaroundabout. Again I can only say: look at the "Beispiele" in the DWDS entry. "Never" is a big word.
    – fdb
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 11:46

From my personal impression I would say that "Ich habe durst" is more common.

I just recently read "Haben oder Sein" by Erich Fromm where he explores the difference between to be and to have. For example there is a huge difference between learning to posses information and learning for truly widen your view and exercising your mind. He points out that people tend to use the word "haben" a lot more because it's possessing is very important to them. I don't want to dive in further but if you are interested in a more philosophical approach to your question the book is worth a read.

So I would say "Ich bin durstig" is more accurate, since it is more a feeling and a state than something you can "have".

  • While I always appreciate the recommendation on a good book: You can't have feelings? If we are talking about a more philosophical approach in this context, we need to talk about the difference between werden (to posses information) and sein (essence/substance). Philosophically a state like being thisty is more Schein than Sein. In this sense Durst haben would be more accurate.
    – Olafant
    Commented Nov 8, 2019 at 13:30
  • I think you misunderstood me. I was talking about "haben" means "owning" or "possessing. Thrust is nothing you can posses. Commented Nov 11, 2019 at 13:50
  • I think I didn't. Read your last sentence. ...is more a feeling and a state than something you can "have".
    – Olafant
    Commented Nov 11, 2019 at 13:55
  • how does "werden" means to posses information? Can you explain why being thirsty is a "Schein" to you? I mean tell this to someone who dies of thirst. Altogether I can not follow your argumentation. But let me clarify my answer, maybe this helps: I was talking about "possing"/ "owning" as a meaning of "haben". You can posses/own a car or a house or whatever, but not thirst. You can feel tired, or thirsty, or happy. But nobody would say "I habe Müdigkeit" or "Ich habe Zufriedenheit". You would say "Ich bin müde", "ich bin zufrieden" and therefore "Ich bin durstig". Commented Nov 11, 2019 at 13:59
  • Sorry, I didn't express myself very well. Werden doesn't mean to possess information. I just meant to refer (in the braces) to your explanation regarding Haben/Sein. You state, that widen your view and exercising your mind means sein in opposition to possess information (haben). Right so far? Philosophical Sein is immutable, timeless, comprehensive. In contrast true learning is werden. Thirst is a physical need that you have. Not something you are. Unfortunately we are both wrong if it comes to everyday language. ;)
    – Olafant
    Commented Nov 11, 2019 at 15:00

As a famous italian football coach once said "ich habe fertig" (i have finished or ho finito (ho = avere = habe(n)), no one in Germany would say this, but you would say "ich bin fertig".

german is NOT a latin-based language like italian, but is hugly influenced by it. i think this is the source of those mixed forms (my personal opinion) , like "ich habe Durst" or "ich bin durstig".

more common is "ich habe Durst".

  • 2
    After Trappattoni said it, "Ich habe fertig" became a colloquial.
    – Alexander
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 14:17
  • 1
    Klang damals wie: "Ich-ä 'abbe feddich." Siehe youtube.com/watch?v=9kAbsujEwkg, 1:24. Selbst für den native speaker mühsam zu verstehen. Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 15:20
  • The correct Italian version of what the coach mistakingly said in German is "Ho finito". English is not a Latin-based language. It's a germanic language with a very rich vocabulary of words of Latin origin. Giorgio
    – Giorgio
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 16:05
  • @Giorgio a typo... and yes you are right, my mistake i corrected it. :)
    – Exar666Kun
    Commented Nov 8, 2019 at 5:21
  • @MichaelHoppe für mich ist das eindeutig "ich habe fertig"
    – Exar666Kun
    Commented Nov 8, 2019 at 5:23

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