An idiom is an expression that cannot be translated literally from English to Italian or vice versa. In many of these cases, English uses the verb “to be”, but Italians instead use avere (to have).

Ho fame! I am hungry! I have hunger!
Ha paura del buio. She is afraid of the dark. She has fear of the dark.
Hanno bisogno di aiuto. They need help. They have need of help.

Here are some other idiomatic expressions that utilize avere:

  • avere sete (to be thirsty)
  • avere sonno (to be sleepy)
  • avere caldo (to be hot)
  • avere freddo (to be cold)
  • avere ragione (to be right)
  • avere torto (to be wrong)

The verb avere is additionally used when discussing age:

Quanti anni hai? How old are you? How many years do you have?
Ho quarantuno anni. I am 41. I have 41 years.
Quanti anni ha? How old is he? How many years does he have?
Mio figlio ha sette anni. My son is 7. My son has 7 years.

The verb fare (to do, make)  is also used in many idioms and proverbs.

Faccio una passeggiata. I take a walk. I do a walk.
Lei fa una domanda. She asks a question. She does a question.

Some additional examples:

  • fare le spese (to go shopping)
  • fare la spesa (to go grocery shopping)
  • fare il bagno (to take a bath)
  • fare la doccia (to take a shower)
  • fare colazione (to have breakfast)
  • fare un viaggio (to take a trip)
  • fare una foto (to take a photograph)

It is additionally used in many expressions relating to the weather:

Che tempo fa? How is the weather? How the weather does?
Fa cattivo tempo. The weather is bad. It does bad weather.
Qui fa sempre freddo. It’s always cold here. Here it does always cold.

TIP: There are no hard and fast rules to explain these differences, just be sure to know the present indicative forms of both “avere” and “fare”. Immersion and practice will take care of the rest!