Literal translations between English and German rarely work because German grammar is so much stricter than English grammar. A case in point is the translation of “I’m cold” or “I’m hot” into German. Since both phrases are subjective feelings towards the temperature, they cannot be translated literally. In this post I will explain how to translate the phrases properly.
In German, subjective feelings are usually communicated by using the dative case. The latter usually translates as “to” or “for” into English and that explains why we use the case because what we want to say is that it (i.e. the temperature) is cold or hot to me. So the correct translations are
Es ist mir kalt or mir ist kalt.
Es ist mir heiß or mir ist heiß.
The only difference between the two options is emphasis, so the question is whether you want to emphasise the impersonal “es” or the fact that it is cold or hot to you. So what happens if you translated literally? The result might surprise you.
Ich bin cold (I have a cold personality)
Ich bin heiß (I’m sexually desirable)
So you wouldn't communicate what you had in mind.
Oddly enough, “I’m freezing” can be translated literally to “Ich friere”.
Similar phrases with the dative case are
Mir ist es warm (I am warm)
Mir tut (any body part, e.g. mein Kopf) weh (My head hurts)
Mir ist übel (I am sick)
Mir ist egal, was…(e.g. andere Leute über mich denken) (I don’t care)
Of course, the word order in German can be moved around again for reasons of emphasis.
Es ist mir warm
Mein Kopf tut mir weh.
Es ist mir übel
Es ist mir egal
On our German language blog "Auf Deutsch, bitte!" you will find many other explanations of German grammar, such as the difference between "sein" and "ihr", "nach", nachdem" and "danach", "denn" vs. "dann", "brauchen" vs. "müssen", but you will also learn phrases such as how to say "Merry Christmas" in German, so check out our posts.