Let´s begin by asking a question: How do you say “tengo frio” in English?
Do you know the answer? It´s “I´m cold”, where I´m means I am.
Remember, this is one of several occasions in English where we use a conjugated form of the verb ´to be´ – I am, you are, he/she is, we are, they are. Remember, when speaking we usually use the short forms – I’m, you’re, he’s, she’s, it’s, we’re, they’re etc. Use them when you speak – you’re going to hear them in spoken English, so it will help you to recognise them.
In contrast, if you have caught a virus – the common cold – and are perhaps suffering from nasal congestion, a headache, and not feeling very well, you have probably got a cold.
We say: “I´ve got a cold.”
I´ve got a cold : Estoy resfriado / Tengo un resfriado / Estoy constipado*
or if it’s a case of “Estoy muy resfriado” – say “I´ve got a (really) bad cold” – or heavy, nasty etc.
Don´t tell the English speaker that “you´re constipated“. This means something else (click the link!). This mistake has been made for many years. For instance, centuries ago a Spanish royal became very red-faced when speaking to a princess at a palace dinner in England! See the following more modern examples, courtesy of the BBC languages forum:
Many Spanish people visit Plymouth and one day in a chemist’s, I overheard a young Spaniard asking for something for his constipation. Unfortunately, he didn’t get a cure for his ‘common cold’ but received a good run for his money!
Editor’s note: This is indeed a confusing one – el constipado is the word the Spanish in Spain use for ‘a cold’, while if you are suffering from constipation the Spanish term is el estreñimiento.
Sent by: Geoff
This happened to me on my first month working as a trainee in the UK. Having lunch in the canteen with some other colleagues in their twenties, I was asked if was feeling alright. I reply quite confidently: ‘Well, not really. I am constipated.’ By the look on their faces, and their reply: ‘That is just too much information, thank you very much’ I realised that my straight translation from Spanish (constipado….), was once again incorrect.
It’s cold – final consonant, different meaning
- Vitamin C is beneficial against the common cold (eurekalert.org)