Hot in Spanish – Caliente vs Calor


In Spanish, both calor and caliente are used to describe and talk about temperature. But since they’re not synonyms, these words can be confusing for both new and experienced learners. Given that they’re used for the same or very similar purposes, many people wonder what’s the difference between ‘calor’ and ‘caliente’ in Spanish. 

The difference between calor and caliente is that ‘calor’ is a noun and it is used to describe the weather and a person’s bodily sensation caused by it. It means ‘hot’, ‘heat’ or ‘warm’. ‘Caliente’ means ‘hot’ or ‘warm’ and is an adjective that describes a person or object’s temperature.

Since in some contexts, ‘calor’ and ‘caliente’ can be translated as ‘hot’, many Spanish learners struggle to understand when to apply these words correctly. For that reason, the following sections will dig deeper into the difference between these words. 

I’ll also provide you with tips, phrases and sentence structures and real-life examples to give you a better understanding of when to use each one of these words. By the end of it, you’ll be able to use both ‘calor’ and ‘caliente’ in the right situations. 

What’s the Difference Between Calor and Caliente in Spanish?

When learning Spanish, one of the most common mistakes people make is using ‘calor’ and ‘caliente’ interchangeably. These words are not synonyms. However, these words are not synonyms and, in fact, they’re used in different situations.

As established before, calor is a noun that we use to talk about the weather or temperature in a certain place. This word also allows you to express that a person feels warm due to the weather. So, depending on the context, ‘calor’ means ‘hot’, ‘heat’ or ‘warm’.

En México, el calor es muy fuerte en verano
In Mexico, the heat is quite strong in the summertime

¿Vamos por un helado? ¡Tengo muchísimo calor!
Should we go for ice cream? I’m very hot!

No manches, ¡qué calor hace!
Geez, it’s so warm today!

On the other hand, caliente is an adjective. This means that we use this word to describe an object’s or person’s temperature. Depending on how intense that temperature is, ‘caliente’ means either ‘hot’ or ‘warm’. Since it’s describing a temporary characteristic (temperature), this word usually works with the verb ‘estar’.

Susy, ¡vamos al doctor! ¡Estás muy caliente!
Susy, let’s go to the doctor! You’re very warm!

Toma tu café, ten cuidado, está muy caliente
Here is your coffee, be careful, it’s very hot

graphic explaining the difference betwee calor and caliente in spanish

Now that you’ve had a quick glimpse of the differences between these words, it’s time to see the contexts and the elements you need to know in order to use them correctly. 

Related Resource: Common Spanish Mistakes You Want to Avoid

How & When to Use Calor in Spanish – Hot and Heat

In Spanish, ‘calor’ is a masculine noun that we use to talk about the weather or the physical feeling that a person experiences when it’s exposed to something caliente (hot). So, depending on how it’s used, ‘calor’ can have different translations: 

  • Calor means heat or hot when talking about high temperatures related to the weather. 
  • Calor means warm when people talk about the physical feeling that high temperatures cause them. 
  • Calor means warmth when describing the energy or sensation that something hot emits.  

Here are some examples of how to apply this word in these situations:

[Definite article] + calor

Me gusta más el frío que el calor
I like the cold more than the heat

El calor está muy intenso el día de hoy
The heat is very intense today 

Me gusta ir a la playa y disfrutar del calor
I like going to the beach and enjoying the heat

Gracias a las lluvias, el calor ha ido disminuyendo
Thanks to the rain, the heat has been decreasing 

Creo que el calor fue mi parte menos favorita de México, ¡es terrible!
I think the heat is my least favorite part of Mexico, it’s awful!

If instead, you want to use calor to describe the weather you can use the following structure. Notice that ‘hacer’ can be conjugated to any tense as long as you use the third-singular person. You can also use adjectives to explain how hot the weather is. 

Hace + (adjective) +  calor

Oye, María, ¿en Colombia hace mucho calor?
Hey, Maria, is it too hot in Colombia?

Lleva ropa más ligera. En México siempre hace calor
Take lighter clothes. In Mexico, it’s always hot

No dormí bien porque hizo bastante calor en la noche
I didn’t sleep well because it was quite hot last night 

Finally, here is the structure that you need to follow when using ‘calor’ to talk about the physical feeling that the weather is causing on you or someone else. In this context, you’ll use it with the verb ‘tener’.

Tener [conjugated] + (adjective) + calor

¡Qué clima tan horrible! Tengo mucho calor 
The weather is awful! I’m very hot

¿Tienes calor? ¿Por qué no vamos por un helado?
Are you warm? Why don’t we go for an ice cream?

Maestra, ¿podemos prender al aire acondicionado? Tenemos mucho calor
Professor, can we turn the air conditioner on? We’re very hot

How & When to Use Caliente in Spanish – Hot & Warm

In Spanish, ‘caliente’ is an adjective that allows us to describe an object’s or a person’s temperature. As a result, this word means ‘hot’ or ‘warm’. Since it’s describing a characteristic at a specific moment or instance, ‘caliente’ works with ‘estar’, since it’s not a permanent characteristic or property of the object or person. Here are some examples of how to use this word:

Estar [conjugated] + (adverb) + caliente

¡Abre las ventanas! ¡Está muy caliente aquí adentro!
Open the windows! It’s very hot in here!

¿Te quemaste? ¡Te dije que el agua estaba caliente!
Did you burn yourself? I told you the water was hot! 

Me voy a esperar un poco, mi taza todavía está muy caliente
I’m going to wait a little bit, my cup is still very hot 

Tu hermano está muy caliente, creo que tiene temperatura
Your brother is very warm, I think he has a fever 

¿Tienen hielo? El café está muy caliente, no me lo puedo tomar
Do you guys have ice? The coffee is too hot, I can’t drink it

Since all Spanish adjectives that end with an ‘e’ don’t have a feminine form, you’ll use caliente to describe both masculine and feminine objects. 

Related Resource: How to Use Estar in Spanish

She’s hot / He’s hot

Although ‘caliente’ is the direct translation of ‘hot’, in Spanish, we don’t use this word when talking about attractive people. For this situation, ‘hot’ will be translated as ‘atractiva/atractivo’ or ‘bueno/buena’.

La chica nueva está muy atractiva The new girl is very hot

¡Qué bueno está el novio de Olga! Olga’s boyfriend is so hot!

Related Resource: How to Call a Man Handsome in Spanish

Take Note: When referring to people, caliente is not a bad word. But, as established above, it’s not used to express that someone is attractive. If used to talk about people, ‘caliente’ means ‘aroused’. So as cool as it sounds, you may not want to use muy caliente when referring to a friend. 

Wrapping Up

‘Caliente’ and ‘calor’ are two Spanish words that can be easily confused by Spanish learners. Since confusing these words will have a negative impact on your fluency, in this article, we discussed the differences between them. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

Caliente

  • It’s an adjective.
  • Describes an object’s or person’s temperature.
  • Works with the verb ‘estar’.
  • It means ‘hot’ or ‘warm’.

Calor

  • It’s a noun.
  • Describes the weather using the verb ‘hacer’. It means hot. 
  • Describes effects as well as your or someone else’s experience caused by the heat. It works with the verb ‘tener’. It means hot. 
  • It’s used as a synonym for ‘heat’

Now that you have a better understanding of these words, you’re ready to start applying them in the correct context. 

Daniela Sanchez

¡Hola! Soy Daniela Sanchez, I’ve taught Spanish in Mexico to a wide array of foreigners. From students and tourists to doctors and soldiers who’ve moved and visited here over the years. During the day I’m a freelancer and marketer, while at night I’m here writing for students of the world wide web looking to learn Spanish. I hope you find what you’re looking here during your journey into Español 🙂 Read More About Me

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