“Don’t say “estar caliente”, say “tener calor”. This is one of the first things we warn Spanish students of in class. We explain to them that if they say “estar caliente” then they are saying they are sexually excited, which although often very humorous, causes a negative effect: unsure of when using “caliente” is okay, they just avoid using it altogether!
We understand that no one wants to mess up like this and sound extremely inappropriate in conversation; however, the adjective "caliente" is very commonly used in Spanish and does not always have a sexual connotation. So let’s take a look at all the implications and meanings that it has for you to use it with confidence and without fear of embarrassing yourself.
That’s right, if a person is very upset, we can say that they are "caliente" - kind of like "fuming". The context and the attitude of the person will make clear the meaning of "hot" to which he/she is referring to.
We can also use the verb “calentarse”.
When someone has a fever, we can confidently say "está caliente".
This is the meaning we're warned about from the start. This is something you can confidently say only under the right context.
When a situation seems to be very complicated or does not have a solution, we can say that it is a "hot" situation, especially when it triggers strong emotions in people.
Caliente is a perfect adjective to describe the weather. If you live in a warm place, you can say it without fear.
If you know a place has a high crime rate, you can also describe it as hot, like you can in English.
There is no other way to describe that something feels hot if it is not using this adjective. We cannot say that the soup ‘tiene calor’, for example, we can only say that it is hot = está caliente.
If something makes you feel warmer, like a jacket, a blanket, a room, etc., then you can describe it as hot.
This is an expression that indicates that something must be done immediately before the time to do it loses its importance.
According to the Real Academia Española dictionary - the "bible" of the Spanish language - a "línea caliente" (literal translation of hotline) is a phone line set up for a specific purpose, for example customer support for a company. However, in everyday and colloquial speech, a "línea caliente" is a phone sex line. So, if you want to properly translate "hot line" into Spanish, we recommend you say "línea de ayuda" instead.
Last but not least:
If you wish to describe your thermal sensation, use the verb "tener" (to have). In the case of feeling hot, you should say: tengo calor. This is just a particularity of Spanish that has nothing to do with the use of the adjective "caliente", so don't think too much about it.
Now that you've got an understanding of how to safely use the word "caliente", why not practice a bit with our exercises?