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Ich bin vs Mir ist vs Ich habe

I'm confused about when to use which phrase. I have seen the following and am not sure what causes the difference.

Ich bin krank

Ich bin müde

Mir ist kalt

Ich habe Hunger

My understanding of the phrases is...

I am sick

I am tired

I am cold

I am hungry

What rule(s) am I missing here to determine which to use? Thanks.

April 12, 2018



Usually, when you translate "being" + adjective you would also use "sein" with an adjective in German: - Ich bin krank/müde - Ich bin groß/klein/langsam/schnell/laut/leise/rot/gelb/... - Ich bin aufgeregt/angespannt - Ich bin gelangweilt (= I'm bored)

Exceptions: There are some phrases where you could use "being" + adjective in English but it translates to "haben" + noun in German (couldn't currently think of other examples for this): - ich habe Hunger/Durst

Exceptions: In some cases when to say how you feel, you use "mir/dir/ihm/ihr/uns/euch/ihnen" (dative) + "sein" + adjective. I also don't know a rule about this. I guess you just have to learn by heart: - Mir ist heiß/warm - Mir ist kalt/kühl (= I feel cold/chilly) - Mir ist langweilig (= I am bored) --> could also be "Ich bin gelangweilt" - Mir ist schwindelig (= I feel dizzy. My head is swimming) - Mir ist schlecht (= I feel queasy) - Mir ist übel (= I feel sick) - Mir ist komisch (= I have a strange feeling, I might become sick)

In other cases, it's "have" + noun in English and "haben" + noun in German as well again: - Ich habe Fieber - Ich habe Schmerzen


Mia already explained the rules, so I just add:

There are fixed expressions/idioms that you just can't translate word to word, so Mia is right, by time you will come across these expressions and have to learn them by heart.

If it helps you, here the literal translation I am hungry -> Ich bin hungrig I am thursty -> Ich bin durstig We would understand what you mean, but it's not really common to use this german sentences.

Sometimes checking on a dictionary helps, in this case the verbs translate like this: to be thursty <-> Durst haben to be hungry <-> Hunger haben

And just for fun :-) an idiom that I really liked when learning English: It's raining cats and dogs <-> Es regnet in Strömen


In the first two phrases the verb 'being' + 'an adjective' is used, so the English translations are a bit more accurate. Mir is dative so it means roughly 'to me'. The verb 'to have' is used in the last phrase, as it is the case also with other languages, whereas the "default" way to express hunger would be represented by a more accurate English translation like 'I have hunger'.

Further clarifications by a mothertongue would be appreciated.


Thank you everyone. Still not clear on it, but I'll keep reading and try to make sense of it.

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