Verb Tener in Spanish Grammar Tip

How many pairs of shoes do you have? How many watches or pairs of earrings? How many shirts? How many T-shirts? How many skirts or trousers? And since we are at it, how many wardrobes? Also, do you have a car? Or a pet? What about a life insurance… do you happen to have one of those? And if not, do you have a valid excuse to justify that?

Possession seems to be a predominant topic in everyday conversations these days. In fact, some would argue that we have become inclined to pre-emptively state what we possess when chatting to friends and family since we get asked about goods we might own all the time.
For these reasons and more, the verb tener in Spanish is what we need to express possession.

El presente del verbo TENER

Pronouns Verbs
Yo (I)
Tú (You)
Él/Ella (He/She)
Nosotros/Nosotras (We)
Vosotros/Vosotras (You all)
Ellos/Ellas (They)
tengo (have)
tienes (have)
tiene (has)
tenemos (have)
tenéis (have)
tienen (have)


Now let’s see some useful examples.

Spanish English
No tengo tiempo para tomar un café con Pili. I don’t have time to have a coffee with Pili.
¿Tienes fuego? Do you have a lighter?
Este año no tenemos vacaciones. We don’t have any holidays this year.
Luis tiene un hijo que vive en Sevilla. Luis has a son who lives in Seville.
¿Tenéis algo para beber? Do you have anything to drink?
Ana tiene planes para esta noche. Ana has plans for tonight.


Furthermore, tener is used in multiple set expressions which are exceptionally common. Interestingly, in most cases the very same expressions require the verb to be in English.

Spanish English
tener hambre to be hangry
tener sed to be thirsty
tener frío to feel cold
tener calor to feel hot
tener sueño to be tired/sleepy
tener suerte to be lucky
tener miedo a… to be scared of…
tener prisa to be in a hurry
tener razón to be right
tener … años to be … years old


Ultimately, tener is also employed to convey the idea of obligation when followed by the conjunction que which, in turn, precedes an infinitive verb indicating the action to be done. The exact English equivalent of such structure is to have to + infinitive verb.


Spanish English
Tienen que estudiar mucho para el examen. They have to study a lot for the exam.
Tengo que hacer la compra para la cena. I have to do the shopping for dinner.
Tenemos que hablar sobre eso. We need to talk about that.
Juan le tiene que comprar un regalo. Juan must buy her a gift.


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