The Spanish Verb TENER – Meanings and Everyday Uses

In our second piece on three verbs (Dar, Tener, and Hacer) to discuss their main uses, but more importantly (and more interestingly) their alternate usages.  Today  we will focus today on the verb “tener” which in English is “to have”.

Yo tengo – I have

Tú tienes – You have

Él/ella tiene – He/she has

Nosotros tenemos– We have

Ellos/ellas tienen – They have

Ustedes tienen – You (pl) have


Again, not rocket science, but obvious must-knows for the most beginner Spanish student.  Here are a few examples in some sentences:

  • Tengo una casa grande.I have a big house.
  • Ella tiene dos hermanos.She has two brothers.
  • Nosotros tenemos una reunión con el jefe.We have a meeting with the boss.
  • ¿Tú tienes la manzana que te di ayer?. – Do you have the apple that I gave you yesterday?

Beyond the above, in Spanish the verb “tener” is commonly used together with the following nouns:

Vergüenza – (to have) shame

Paciencia – (to have) patience

Tiempo – (to have) time

Dolor  – (to have) pain

Familia – (to have) family

Pereza – (to have) laziness

Dudas – (to have) doubts

Fé – (to have) faith

Confianza – (to have) trust

Pena – (to have) grief

Obviously, these are pretty common in English as well.  There are uses of “tener” however, that are used differently in Spanish:

  • Tengo frío.- I am cold. (literally: I have cold)
  • Nosotros tenemos calor. – We are hot.
  • Tú siempre tienes hambre.You are always hungry.

Many everyday expressions in Spanish begin with “tener”. Where in English it is common to use to be + adjective, in Spanish the construction is often: tener + noun.

tener fríoto be cold

tener calor to be hot

tener hambreto be hungry

tener sedto be thirsty

tener sueñoto be sleepy

tener añosto be years old

tener miedoto be afraid

tener prisato be in a hurry

tener cuidadoto be careful

tener (la) razónto be right

tener suerteto be lucky

tener celosto be jealous

tener éxitoto be successful

tener (mucho) gusto ento be (very) glad to

tener graciato be funny

For example:

  • Ella tiene veinte años.She is twenty years old.
  • Él tiene mucho calor.He is very warm.
  • Nosotros tenemos frío.We are cold.
  • Jorge tiene sed cuando está en la playa.Jorge is thirsty when at the beach.
  • Ella tiene celos de su novio.She is jealous of her boyfriend.


“To be warm” and “to be cold” translate as “hacer calor” and “hacer frío”, respectively, when referring to the weather, and as “estar caliente” and “estar frío”, respectively, when referring to things.

The verb “tener” can also be used as follows.

tener la culpa (de) to blame

tener que ver con to have to do with

tener la bondan/gentiliza (de) please

tener sentidoto make sense

tener buena carato look good

tener ganas de + infinitivo/sustantivoto feel like, to care to

Note that the English translation is completely different, as there is a specific verb in English and in Spanish we use the verb “to have” with a noun to form a phrase.

For example:

  • Él tiene la culpa de todos mis problemas. – He is to blame for all my problems.
  • Esto no tiene nada que ver con aquello.This has nothing to do with that.
  • Tengan ustedes la bondad de esperar un momento. – Please wait a minute.
  • El español a veces no tiene sentido. – Spanish sometimes does not make sense.
  • Ellos no tienen buena cara. –They don’t look good.
  • tienes ganas de un helado de chocolate.You feel like an ice cream.

The verb “tener” is also used to express an obligation, something needs to be done. You have to learn the following formula:

tener que + infinitive – to have to, to must

For example:

  • tienes que estudiar más.You have to study more.
  • Nosotros tenemos que practicar todo los verbos.We have to practice all the verbs.

Thanks for reading again! 🙂

photo credit: geraldbrazell via photopin


5 comments on “The Spanish Verb TENER – Meanings and Everyday Uses

  1. Good, thorough post! I always mix up ‘tener sentido’ and say ‘hacer sentido’ because that’s how we say it in English. It took me forever to correct.

    Also, that photo of the dog made me laugh and laugh.

  2. Pingback: Oleo de una mulata Isleña. | Tony Cantero Suarez

  3. Pingback: HACER – Meanings and Everyday Uses | LetsGoSpanish


  5. Pingback: How to use Verbs like Gustar in Spanish | LetsGoSpanish

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s