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  5. Mir ist kalt vs. Ich bin kalt.


Mir ist kalt vs. Ich bin kalt.


Every now and then people here in the forum are calling for help because the can't see why they have to say for instance 'Mir ist kalt' instead of 'Ich bin kalt' literally translated from 'I'm cold'. Of course they get help here but it is hard to see the pattern. What rule this sentences follow? I often mused about it. There must be a rule I just can't see it. Germans got a rule for everything -.-. And yes there is. Unfortunately I only found a site in German and I think the site is not easy to understand for everybody of you. So I tried to translate the text. My English is far away from beeing good but I hope you are able to decode it. The knack to understand this senteces is called 'Unpersönliche Verben'.

Almost every verb can be used in all 3 persons, singular and plural. These verbs are also called 'persönliche Verben' personal verbs.

Ich liebe Dich. Und du liebst mich.

Er/Sie/Es liebt Kuchen.

A few verbs can only be used in 3.person singular and only with the impersonal adding 'es'. You can't build a sentence with a pronoun and also a plural is not possible. This is the case when you use 'unpersönliche Verben'. The 'es' is in that case compulsory.

unpersonal verbs are:

Verbs reflecting personal condition or sensations. schmecken, duften, gut/schlecht gehen, jucken, kalt/warm sein, kratzen, kribbeln, riechen, stinken.

Wie geht es Dir? Es geht mir gut.

Gefällt dir das Kleid? Ja, es gefällt mir sehr gut.

Verbs describing a sound or a noise. blasen, klingeln, klopfen, knarren, krachen, läuten, pfeifen, rascheln, rauschen, scheppern, summen.

Öffne bitte die Tür, jemand hat geklopft

Verbs describing the weather or atmospheric conditions. blitzen, donnern, dämmern, frieren, gewittern, gießen, hageln, nieseln, regnen, scheinen, schneien, tauen, tröpfeln ect.

Es hat geblitzt. Es hat begonnen zu nieseln.

Verbs initiating a topic. es dreht sich um, es geht um, es gibt, es handelt sich um, es heißt, es kommt darauf an, es scheint.

Wir müssen reden. Worum geht es? Es geht um unseren Hund.

Verbs with a concept of time.

Wieviel Uhr ist es? Es war Winter. Es ist noch zu früh.

As an accusativ object (on position3) in phrases.

Ich lasse es darauf ankommen.

Er hat es im Leben weit gebracht.

Some verbs can be used as a personal as well as an impersonal verb. In some cases it doesn't change the meaning of the sentence in some cases it DOES. So please be careful!

Hier stinkt es nach Fisch / Der Fisch stinkt. Same meaning different emphasis

Es ist kalt / Mir ist kalt. Same meaning different emphasis. 'Ich bin kalt' (I'm a cold-hearted person or My body is physically cold) The meaning has changed!

Es ist warm / Ihm ist warm. Same meaning different emphasis. 'Er ist warm' (He has temerature) The meaning has changed!

Es ist heiß / Ihr ist heiß. Same meaning different emphasis. 'Sie ist heiß' (She is a hot girl or she has a high temperature) The meaning has changed!

I know this explanation is not the philosopher's stone but maybe it helps some of you.

Best regards Angel

December 4, 2017



FWIW, I once lived in Berlin with a German family. The parents only knew German, but the son spoke some English. One day, the weather had shifted and become very chilly. I arrived home and announced "Es ist kalt draussen, ich bin kalt!" The son broke out laughing and informed me the proper expression was "Mir ist Kalt", adding that I had just said I was frigid like a woman in saying "Ich bin kslt"!


Hi Raisinnoir,

The classic mistake in every, really every Enlish class is 'Me is cold'. But imagine it would have been a very hot day. "Es ist so warm draußen. Ich bin so h..." lol

Best regards Angel

  • 1261

Warum können Frauen kalt sein, aber nicht Männer? ;-)


Hallo Susan,

natürlich können Männer kalt sein, manche sogar eiskalt. ;-)

liebe Grüße Angel


Danke Angel. Das ist sehr hilfreich.


I think that only the unpersonal verbs which reflect personal condition or sensations are a headace for English-speaking German learners. Because with these ones the active subject and the passive object of the activity are swapped. What is considered the subject in English is used as the object in German.

Wie geht es dir? = How do you do? How are you?

Das Kleid gefällt mir sehr gut = I like the dress very much.

Mir ist kalt (the subject is missing in this sentence) = I am cold

Der Käse schmeckt der Maus = The mouse likes the taste of the cheese.

What hopefully helps the learners here is to remind similar constructs in Engish. Luckily they have them too :)

This picture reminds me that Actually I remember something and the picture does not do anything.

Your face looks familiar (to me). Again - your face is doing nothing, I am thinking that I probably know you.


Hi Margus,

I agree with you. I posted the complete list I found because I don't know where the learners perhaps have problems. Like in your example I could also say 'Ich mag Dein Kleid' so I thought the list could be helpful to identify and learn the unpersonal verbs.

Best regards Angel


Thanks a lot for your feedback and special thanks for the original post! I had never thought before, if there are any simple rules, which help to explain to English speakers why you must say in German mir ist kalt . It was no problem for me, because the other languages which I know, they all follow the German logic.

  • Estonian: mul on külm;
  • Finnish: mulla on kylmä;
  • Russian: мне холодно;

Only English is standing alone with it's I am cold.

It would be interesting to know how other languages express this phrase, which ones are following the "German" logic and which ones are following the "English" logic.


Hi Margus,

That's very interesting thanks for that. The jugoslavien languages (Kroatien/Serbian/Bosnien) are following the same 'rule'. I can't write it only speak it a little bit so 'mene je hladno' could be wrong in spelling. In Spanish they have their own way 'tener frío/calor' 'I have cold/warm'.

Best regards Angel


Romanian: mi-e frig (short for (mie) imi este frig)

Same logic as in German.


We say it the same way in Serbian. "Meni je hladno" = "Mir ist kalt" , "Ja sam hladna" = "Ich bin kalt"


I may have to read this through again to get what it means but thankyou!


Hi Cluney,

if the text is unclear at some points please tell me or ask me.

Best regards Angel


Du hast 'temperatur' geschrieben. Aber es ist 'temperature'. I don't know if you did that on purpose because if that's the spelling in German. ''Every now and then people here in the forum calling for help because the can't see why they have to say for instance It may be better to say Every now and then people here in the forum are calling for help because the can't see why they have to say for instance. Those are just a couple of things but I was finding it more confusing just because of the size of information.


Hi Cluney,

yes temperature/Temperatur. Sorry for that. Thank you for your amendments. I changed it. I know it is a lot of text but I hope it is helpful somehow.

Best regards Angel

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