There are many very common expressions in French that use ‘to have (avoir)’ when ‘to be (être) would be used in English.
expressing age for example, one would say: J’ai ….. ans – I have ….. years
(I am …)
faim — to have hunger (to be hungry)
soif — to have thirst (to be thirsty)
sommeil — to have sleepiness (to be sleepy)
la chance — to have luck (to be lucky)
chaud — to have heat (to be hot)
froid — to have cold (to be cold)
— to have pain (to be in pain)
tort — to have wrong (to be wrong)
raison — to have right (to be right)
retard — to have lateness (to be late)
So why is that?
To have, usually expresses a physical or mental characteristics and something you possess. In these examples you possess a specific characteristic. It is a physical sensation vs a feeling (which you would link with être)
To have will always be followed by a noun, not an adjective. This why we say ‘j’ai 3 ans’ (ans is a noun) and not Je suis 3 ans (which would mean I am the number 3 years, which would be totally weird!). In the same way, you have cold and you are not The cold itself!
Here is a nice chart to help you remember when to use avoir and when to use être
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