Someone tried to explain the difference in this answer https://chinese.stackexchange.com/a/43/38 saying that 我饿了 means "I became hungry", but I don't see the difference because we don't say I became hungry in English, you are either hungry or you are not (I appreciate this could be a cultural difference).

So can someone try to explain to me further the difference between the two.

Same with similar constructs like 我累了 and 我很累.

  • 2
    This is quite simple. Just substitute with already.
    – 杨以轩
    Nov 26, 2013 at 5:37
  • 1
    @QuestionOverflow - But we don't say "I'm already hungry" in English, that's why I don't understand the difference
    – going
    Nov 26, 2013 at 11:24
  • 1
    @xiaohouzi79 I'm guessing QuestionOverflow is American? I think some Americans would say "I'm hungry already!"
    – Cocowalla
    Nov 26, 2013 at 11:37
  • 1
    @xiaohouzi79 Then how do you express it in English? "It's only 4pm but I am ____ hungry."
    – NS.X.
    Nov 26, 2013 at 20:31
  • 1
    @NS.X. this is a little bit of a language barrier between American and Australian English we would just "It's only 4pm and I'm hungry" or "I know it's only 4pm but I'm hungry". "It's only 4pm but I am already hungry" feels very un-natural to me
    – 50-3
    Dec 3, 2013 at 1:00

4 Answers 4


Another Aussie here just to give me interpretation of the way it would be translated into English


This is more likely to be used as a interjection or to emphasise a point rather then a response eg. you want to indicate your hungry to someone as a new topic

我要吃东西因为我饿了 (I want something to eat because I've been hungry for a while now)

A more aussie way of saying the above would be "come on mate/love I'm hungry let go get something to eat" but what is expressed as apart of 我饿了 isn't really used in the Australian English language

There are time when you can use it as a response though eg.

Q: 为什么你要吃
A: 因为我肚子饿了
However 因为我很饿 also works in this situation


This is used more as a building block rather then a stand alone statement, I would personally only use it during a conversation and not as a stand alone statement eg.

我: 我很饿
我: 要吃谢谢

It took me a very long to understand and learn to use 了 because as previously mention it would literately translate into "already" and in most cases as it's not used in this context in Australia as if I said "I'm hungry already!" to one of my friends the response would be something along the lines of "Oh my are you okay princess, please, please don't get up; just wait there I will go make you some fairy bread"

Something to keep in mind 我饿了 isn't always to complain about hunger it's just a way of expressing it.

  • In 'Q: 为什么你要吃 A: 因为我肚子饿了' the question sounds logically unnecessary. A better version might be 'Q: 怎么不看电视了 A: 因为我肚子饿了,我要去吃东西'.
    – NS.X.
    Dec 3, 2013 at 9:04
  • @NS.X. much better example :) 'Q: 为什么你要吃 A: 因为我肚子饿了' was just the first thing that came to mind that I could use as an example
    – 50-3
    Dec 3, 2013 at 10:17
  • How about Q: 你饿了没? A: 我饿了。
    – Leo Liu
    Jan 2, 2014 at 6:04
  • And how about A: 我饿了。 B: 那吃饭吧。
    – Leo Liu
    Jan 2, 2014 at 6:06

I think that this is more a product of the fact that 我饿了 is something we don't commonly explicitly express in English. We say "I am hungry" and let context and tone of voice determine whether this is some new information (I am hungry now) or merely the expression of a continuing state of affairs (I have been and continue to be hungry). I have become hungry (to stick with the present) may sound like an awkward translation because it is trying to make the exact meaning of the expression explicit. If we were translating a novel (and not tying to explain the language) we would probably translate it as "I am hungry" and allow the nuance to be suggested by the context.


我饿了 litterally should be translated into "I am starving", because 饿 here is used as a verb.

我很饿 is litterally "I am very hungry.". 饿 is an adj here.

I would say these are only different expressions and are both very common. The only difference is that 我很饿 is emphasizing the extent of starving.

Note that we do not usually say "我饿" as a lighter form of "我很饿", maybe because it is very simple and we only say it to people with very close relationship, as a form of 撒娇.

我饿了。 I am hungry.
我 I
饿 hungry
了 already

我很饿。 I am very hungry.
我 I
很 very
饿 hungry

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