I'm curious about this, as what I was taught in high school suggests that "J'ai faim" is the proper way to say "I'm hungry".

However, I know that a wealth of everyday French cuts even more corners or constructs sentences non-traditionally to achieve the same effect.

So is

J'ai faim.

the same as:

Je suis faim?

1) Are both valid?
2) Are both USED?
3) Is the former more suited to written or formal French where the latter is more suited for speaking?

Moreso than that, if I wanted to say "I am very hungry" it's either

J'ai beaucoup de faim (I have a lot of hunger)


Je suis tellement faim (I am very hungry)

I guess I'd just like to know which one is more common or more used? I guess it boils down to me needing to understand what 'faim' is literally. Is it 'hunger' or 'hungry'?

  • 3
    you can say: je suis femme ;)
    – Alexan
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 18:23
  • There is no difference because they cannot be compared. One is completely wrong.
    – Lambie
    Commented Aug 25, 2019 at 19:25
  • To express very hungry, comparative are used a lot: "J'ai tellement faim que je pourrais avaler [something huge]". You've also "affamé" (and as a participe, it describes a state, so you use it with être : "je suis affamé là")
    – Dereckson
    Commented Dec 16, 2019 at 10:33

5 Answers 5


Yes, there is a big difference between the two: "je suis faim" makes no sense in French.

What you were taught in high school most likely didn't suggest that the proper way to say "I'm hungry" is "j'ai faim"; it probably stated it. And it was right.

You could look in a dictionary and see that "faim" is literally "hunger". So yes, in French you "have hunger". It's a fixed expression that you can't really mess around with. If you want to say that you are very hungry, then you'll say "j'ai très faim". But if you want to use être, you'll have to use something other than "faim", like "affamé", which is an adjective derived from faim.

You might be interested in this question about hunger-related expressions (in French).

  • 1
    On a side note, the problem is the same with other expressions: "I'm hot" will translate to "J'ai chaud." (except maybe when speaking of someone attractive (e.g. "Damn, she's hot!"), but then, there are other possible idioms).
    – Chop
    Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 7:19
  • Given that faim is a noun, it is odd that to be very hungry is translated as avoir très faim rather than avoir bien faim or avoir beaucoup de faim. Commented Jul 6, 2018 at 13:20

Faim is more like hunger (although I have hunger doesn't look idiomatic) so only J'ai faim is valid, je suis faim is impossible.

I'm very hungry would be J'ai très faim. You might also say Je suis affamé(e) which is slightly stronger than I am very hungry, more like I'm starving.

  • Je suis affamé would be the equivalent to I am starving.
    – SteeveDroz
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 10:20
  • @Oltarus Indeed, my point was to show there are cases where "je suis something" can be used to express hunger.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 10:32
  • 1
    I know, don't worry, I'm not saying you were wrong ;-)
    – SteeveDroz
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 12:26
  • @Oltarus No problem, thanks! Answer updated to include that translation.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 12:35

"faim" is a noun. You can't use it as an adjective. So only "J'ai faim" is correct. If you have heard "Je suis faim" then I assume it was said by speakers who speak French as a second or a foreign language and translate according a structure in their mother tongue "I am hungry" as "Je suis faim". But this is wrong as it means "I am hunger" and that makes no sense at all.

  • I understand. I've never actually constructed it as "Je suis faim", but this was just more of an "is this the case?" question. Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 18:21

A few helpful idiomatic ways to say things for beginners:

English: to be hungry French: avoir faim [être would be non-grammatical in French]

English: to be cold French: avoir froid

English: to be fed up French: en avoir marre

English: to be hot French: avoir chaud


English: to be 21 years old

avoir 21 ans

Try thinking about this like this: Would you say in English: I have 21 years for I am 21 years old? No, you wouldn't. Well, French is the other way round. I see no need to go further into it for a beginner. Happy trails!

  • 1
    One of the main ways to understand something is through explaining patterns. Another is comparatively. There is no reason to criticize my answer on that basis. It definitely is not messing around.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 29, 2016 at 13:23
  • There is absolutely nothing wrong with the other way round: French people would find: je suis faim weird, just like English speakers would find: I have hunger weird. It is not wrong. It is how to explain it semantically so a person remembers it. This user is an English speaker, if the person had been a French speaker, I would have written it from the French perspective. But I can see that messing around is what takes the cake around here. Enfin, faut pas charrier comme ça.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 29, 2016 at 18:44

On ne peut pas dire "je suis faim", car "faim" étant un nom commun, c'est grammaticalement impossible en français.

Je suis + participe passé ou Je suis + adjectif, mais jamais Je suis + nom (ce qui est impossible en français).

Ex: Je suis beau. Je suis mort. (Je suis + adjectif). Même si on peut dire "la mort", ici "mort" est adjectif, comme dans "un arbre mort".

Je suis ici (Je suis + adverbe de lieu) *Je suis perdu. Je suis affamé.(Je suis + participe passé utilisé comme adjectif) Je suis triste. Je suis rousse. (Je suis + adjectif)

Faim, donne l'adjectif "affamé", soif donne "assoiffé".

On voit ici la différence de logique entre l'anglais et le français.

Là où l'anglais utilisera l'état. Je suis affamé = I am hungry, - État traduit par le verbe d'état "être"- le français utilisera la qualité, une qualité est une chose qu'on peut avoir ou ne pas avoir, désignée par le verbe "de qualité" avoir. J'ai faim = I have hunger. En gros, une façon de dire, je "possède" la faim, la faim est avec moi.

  • Quand vous dites en 1ère/2e phrase que c'est impossible car il y a nom commun, sans doute voulez-vous dire qqc. de plus précis, comme impossible pour signifier avoir faim ou je ne sais exactement. En effet, je suis plombier, c'est bien un nom commun, et il n'y a pas d'impossibilité grammaticale. De quoi parlez-vous au juste ici ? Merci.
    – user3177
    Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 8:30
  • 1
    Je suis plombier = exactement. Merci de la remarque. Faudrait que je revois mon explication.
    – Quidam
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 10:29

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