If I want to say

Feel his forehead. Does it feel hot to you?

am I using standard/good Spanish if I say:

Tócale la frente. ¿La tiene muy caliente?

I am primarily concerned with the phrase "la tiene muy caliente." Is such a phrase considered grammatically correct? Or is it more of a colloquialism? If I were a doctor, would I ask about someone's body temperature in this way?

¿Es la frase "la tiene muy caliente" (y otras similares) considerada buen español?

Si quiero decir

Feel his forehead. Does it feel hot to you?

estoy usando español bien / español estándar si digo:

Tócale la frente. ¿La tiene muy caliente?

Me ocupo principalmente de la frase "la tiene muy caliente". ¿Es una frase como ésta gramaticalmente correcta? ¿O es más de un coloquialismo? Si fuera doctor, ¿preguntaría por la temperatura corporal de esta manera?

From comment: I'm interested in constructs that involve DIRECT OBJECT PRONOUN - TENER - ADJECTIVE, especially those that get translated into SUBJECT - TO BE - ADJECTIVE in English.

  • 4
    La frase está perfecta, incluso es habitual; pero eso sí, no olvides dar contexto (mencionar la frente). Ya sabes que "hot" tiene más significados, en inglés y en español.
    – FGSUZ
    Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 20:56
  • 1
    @FGSUZ - (Overall I think the dangers of that word getting misunderstood are greater in Spanish.) Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 3:19
  • Just to understand the question better -- could you clarify the part of the title where you say "and others like it"? What aspect of the sentence were you thinking of? Thanks. Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 3:20
  • @aparente001 I was referring to constructs that involve DIRECT OBJECT PRONOUN - TENER - ADJECTIVE, especially those that get translated into SUBJECT - TO BE - ADJECTIVE in English. I think it takes most native English speakers a while to get comfortable with the way this type of sentence can be constructed in Spanish, but discussion threads such as this help reinforce that it is, if nothing else, a perfectly natural way to provide a description of something.
    – Lisa Beck
    Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 6:07

3 Answers 3


Tener is used to indicate a state or condition of parts of the body in Spanish.

To have cold hands is tener las manos frías. The verb tener is used to describe parts of the body that are hot, cold etc.

It's idiomatic to use tener in these situations. There is no other way to say it for the English usage of: to have a hot forehead, etc.

Un signo común de fiebre en los bebés es tener la frente caliente. Los pediatras recomiendan utilizar sólo termómetros digitales en niños. Los termómetros de mercurio no deben utilizarse porque presentan un riesgo de exposición y de intoxicación si se rompen.

tener la frente caliente-site from Spain

Of course, in slang, if you don't say frente and just say la and are referring to the third person (él la tiene muy caliente it means: he has gotten/made her hot. But, really, that is not the case when the context shows you are talking about conditions or states of a person's body or its parts.

  • Good answers from both you and @Mike, but the green check mark goes to you because it specifically addressed my question and gave me broader context that allows me to apply this knowledge to other situations. Excellent answer. And thanks for the link. I look forward to checking it out later.
    – Lisa Beck
    Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 6:19

This is supplemental material.

Some more examples of the pattern you are interested in:

Tienes los pies muy sucios. Te bañas antes de acostarte, por favor.

Jorge tiene las manos muy grandes.

But this can be done with some other verbs as well, such as dejar and traer:

Traes los zapatos muy sucios.

¿Me dejas la cocina bien arregladita, por favor?


In Mexico this can be considered ULTRA politically incorrect, and thanks to the albur culture you might get some jokes about it.

There's no problem on informal context, like with your family, but doctors and specialists will use the term "temperatura" and "calentura" which means "temperature" and "fever," and they are expressed similarly to the way you would say "have an illness".

If his body heat is above normal: "tiene temperatura".
If it's too high: "tiene mucha temperatura".

And until you confirm that it's fever then you call it "tiene calentura".


If the fever gets too high is when is called "fiebre".

In México people will use "calentura" instead of "fiebre" as "fiebre" is considered a really bad disease, so from the taboo of fear it's reduce simply to "calentura".

  • 1
    Not in context. Only if guys are talking among themselves. Otherwise, in other contexts about comfort/discomfort of the body, it's the only way to translate: have cold hands, etc.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 21:03
  • Correct, when you are inside context there's no problem and even doctors will ask for specific details.
    – Mike
    Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 21:05
  • 2
    Wow. Well, all I can say is that I learn something new every time I visit the Spanish StackExchange ... even things I wasn't expecting to learn. Not sure if this answer is worthy of the green check mark yet, but I voted you up just for expanding my knowledge in general. Gracias ... en serio.
    – Lisa Beck
    Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 6:13

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