The sentence

Ich bin Hunger

translates to

I am hungry

which seems right, whereas

Ich habe Hunger

translates to

I have hunger

Why do Germans own or possess hunger?

  • 5
    Why not? All Roman languages do it as well... there is nothing weird about it
    – Emanuel
    Aug 16, 2013 at 20:03
  • 12
    Because "Hunger" is a noun. You'd not say "I am herpes," you'd say "I have herpes."
    – Dustin
    Aug 17, 2013 at 3:39
  • 10
    I am Hunger, the rider of Apocalypse
    – Vogel612
    Aug 17, 2013 at 18:57
  • 21
    Why do some people think that the logic of German should be consistent with English? Why does it make sense to say "I am hungry" after all? English is not the "truth".
    – c.p.
    Aug 17, 2013 at 19:36
  • 8
    Note that I am hungry translates to Ich bin hungrig (which is perfectly valid German) instead of Ich bin Hunger
    – marstato
    Jul 18, 2014 at 10:14

4 Answers 4


Note that the German word Hunger is a noun. Just as you'd not say I am hunger in English, you most likely would not say I am hunger in German.

Ich bin hungrig is legal and works, but is less common than Ich habe Hunger.

The same goes for being thirsty:

Ich habe Durst

Ich bin durstig

Both of the above are valid but the former is far more common.

  • Very good exp. Is just like spanish.
    – user8903
    Jul 17, 2014 at 6:25
  • 2
    "Ich hab' Hunger" is the shortest way to say that you are hungry and you don't want to waste energy on long sentences when you are already hungry. :)
    – Iris
    Dec 3, 2015 at 11:52

It's no different than English, really.

hungrig is an adjective meaning hungry. Hunger is a noun meaning hunger(appetite).

Thus, "Ich bin Hunger" quite literally means "I am hunger", which makes no sense in either language.

"Ich bin hungrig" means, just as in English, "I am hungry."

Additionally, you can also say "Ich habe Hunger", literally translating to "I have (got) hunger."

Admittedly, this is not good English, but one could understand it. But I can talk about how "you've got an appetite", so I don't think there's anything particularly strange about the German expression.


Hunger can be described as a feeling - "I feel hungry" for example. You possess feelings. Therefore "I have hunger" works.


To go into why Germans possess Hunger vs are hungry. It is a separation of self kinda thing.

I'm me. And my body is hungry. I have a body that is hungry. So via indirection I have hunger or I'm afflicted with hunger or a hungry body.

If you are or identify with your body then you are hungry. But if you identify with your spirit then you cannot be hungry but you can possess a hungry body.

  • 3
    "haben" in this context does not mean "to possess something" but "to feel seomething". Another example: "Ich habe großen Hass auf ihn - I feel strong hate for him". B2t: "Hunger haben" means "to feel hungry". Meaning 5 in Wiktionary entry on haben
    – Em1
    Aug 21, 2013 at 11:23

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