The two most important verbs in Italian are the auxilary verbs avere [to have] and essere [to be ] because you need them to form other tenses.

Today we’ll look at avere – to have:

The “o” sound in Italian is rounded, like a Welsh “oh”.

The verb avere is used in many expressions in Italian where English uses the verb to be:

You use avere to say your age:

  • Quanti anni hai? How old are you? [to a friend, relative or child]

  • Quanti anni ha? [polite form]

  • Ho 8 anni - I’m 8

We use avere to say we are hungry or thirsty:

  • Ho fame [O fa-may] I’m hungry

  • Ho sete [O set-ay] I’m thirsty

  • Hai fame? [Ai fa-may?] Are you hungry? [to someone you know well or a child]

We use avere to say someone is right:

  • Hai ragione [ai ra-jon-ay] You are right

We use avere to say we are hot or cold:

  • Ho freddo [o fred-doh] - I’m cold

  • Avete caldo? [av-eh-tay cal-doh] Are you hot? [to a group of people]

We use avere to say we are afraid:

  • Ho paura [o pow-ur-ah] - I’m afraid

We use avere to say we are sleepy

  • Hai sonno? [ai son-noh] - Are you sleepy?

and to say we are in a hurry:

  • Ho fretta [o fret-tah] I’m in a hurry.

We also use avere to say we need something:

  • Ho bisogno di un medico [o bee-sonn-ee-oh dee oon med-ee-koh] .

Once we are at the doctor’s we use avere to say what is wrong:

  • Avere mal di testa to have a headache

  • Avere la febbre to have a temperature

  • Avere mal di gola to have a sore throat

  • Avere mal di stomaco to have a bad stomach

See if you can complete the following conversation:

This will open a pop-up window containing the answer. If it doesn't work you may either have Javascript or Pop-up windows disabled or the page needs refreshing


  • Dottore: Buongiorno.

  • Patient: Buongiorno, dottore. _____ mal di stomaco e _____ mal di testa.

  • Dottore: Da quanti giorni? [For how many days?]

  • Patient: ______ mal di stomaco da due giorni e mal di testa da un giorno. [Italian uses the present tense here.]

  • Dottore: _____ la febbre, signora? [Use the polite form of “you”.]

  • Patient: No, non ___ la febbre.

  • Dottore: Va bene, le do queste pillole. [“Ok, I’ll give you these pills”. – He’s rather a decisive doctor!]

  • Patient: E mio figlio [my son] ______ mal di stomaco da 5 giorni.

  • Dottore [to child]: Quanti anni ____ .

  • Child: _____ 6 anni.

  • Dottore: ____ mal di testa ?

  • Child: No, ma _____ mal di gola e ____ sempre sete. [sempre= always].

  • Dottore: Apri la bocca e vediamo..... [Open your mouth and let’s see....]