Chaud and Froid – All About Hot and Cold in French

In French, when using the word “cold” or “hot”, there are different constructions: c’est froid, elle est froide, j’ai chaud, il fait chaud… This lesson explains which expression to use in what condition, and whether the adjectives “froid” and “chaud” take a E.

I hear many mistakes from my Skype students with these two adjectives, and these mistakes sound bad in French, can lead to an embarrassing situation with a sexual meaning… However they can easily be avoided. So follow my explanation and make sure you understand it well to never make these mistakes again!

1 – J’ai Chaud / J’ai Froid – Feeling Hot or Cold in French

To talk about how you are feeling, whether you feel cold or warm, we use the construction: AVOIR chaud/ avoir froid.

It is quite confusing for English speakers because in English you use “être” (to be) but in French, we don’t use “être”, we use “avoir”. So it’s important that when memorizing this notion, you link the French words to the feeling of being cold/warm, not to the English words, because translating will not work.

“Avoir” will agree with the subject; “chaud”/”froid” will never change.

  1. J’ai chaud – I am warm
  2. Ils ont froid – They are cold

Expressions with “avoir” (and “faire”) are listed in the second chapter of the workbook of my  French Audiobook and novel à Moi Paris 2.

When memorizing these expressions, link the feeling to the French words – not the English words since translation would lead you to all sorts of mistakes. If you learn with flashcards, make a drawing (even if you cannot draw, you’ll remember what you intended to draw!)

learn french

2 – Il est Chaud, Elle est Froide = Hot / Cold to the Touch

To talk about how something feels to the touch, we use “être” + “chaud” or “froid”.  ”

Chaud” and “froid”will agree in number and gender with the noun they modifies, like any other French adjective:

  1. La glace est froide – The ice is cold
  2. Tu es très chaude = You are very hot to the touch – (as in, “you have a fever”)

Note: when you add an “e” to make “chaude” or “froide”, the otherwise silent “d” is pronounced.

Avoid and Embarrassing Mistake:

For people, chaud(e/s) and froid(e/s) have an idiomatic meaning:

  1. Elle est froide: She is cold, as in distant.
  2. Elle est chaude: She is horny… or hot.

Be very careful, “elle est chaude” in French is still quite vulgar, it’s not yet a good translation of “She is hot”… It’s changing meaning, and I think in a few years may mean “she’s hot”, but in 2012, as I write these words, it’s still a bit more “horny” than “hot”…

However, if the DJ says “vous êtes chauds ce soir” this means the crowd is hot, having a lot of fun.

 hot and cold in French

3 – C’est Chaud, C’est Froid = No E ever With C’est

If you are using “c’est”, the construction requires you to use only a masculine singular adjective.

“C’est chaud, c’est froid”. These are the only things you can say when using “c’est.” Never “chaude / froide”.

  1. Le thé, c’est chaud – Tea in general is hot
  2. Mais la glace, c’est froid – But ice-cream (in general) is cold

Note, also, the new slang expression “C’est chaud,” which means “It’s tough, difficult.”
Check out my French grammar lesson on C’est versus il est.

4 – Il Fait Chaud, il Fait Froid = Hot / Cold Weather Wise

When talking about the temperature around you (outside: the weather, or inside, the temperature of a room…) use the impersonal construction “Il fait” + “chaud” or “froid” that never changes.

  1. Aujourd’hui, il fait chaud – today, it’s warm (out).
  2. En Suède, en hiver, il fait froid – in Sweden, in winter, it’s cold.
  3. Il fait trop chaud dans ton appartement ! – It’s too hot in your apartment!

5 –  Hot and Cold in French – Recap

  1. Elle a chaud – never chaude – She is feeling warm
  2. Elle est chaude – It/She is warm/hot to the touch
    Watch out – it’s not (yet) a good translation of “this girl is hot”.
  3. C’est chaud – never chaude – It’s hot
  4. Il fait chaud – never chaude – It’s warm/hot outside

6 – Watch Out! A Cold = Un Rhume

Another mistake I hear all the time is a literal translation of “I have a cold”. It is not “j’ai un froid”, which means absolutely nothing in French.

We say “J’ai un rhume” – pronounce it “ru-m”. Speaking of which, you may enjoy my lesson on what you should do if you are sick in France.

Voilà, I hope you found this helpful. A word of caution: the rules are simple enough, yet somehow, they are hard to remember for an English speaker. So bookmark and revisit often :-)

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