It is particularly useful to know the everyday Spanish verb tener, translated as “to have.” It is used to indicate not only possession but also emotions and states of being in a variety of idiomatic expressions.

The Spanish word tener means “to have” in the sense of “to possess” or “to own.” The equivalent of the English auxiliary verb “to have,” as in “you have seen,” is haber (as in “you have seen, you have seen”).

Tener Verb Conjugation in Spanish

Spanish Verb: tener
English Translation: to have (preterite: to get, to receive)

Notes: tener is an irregular verb in the present, e changes to ie, in the preterite, tuv-, in the future and conditional, tendr-, in the imperative, ten.

Tener Verb Conjugation In Indicative

Tener Verb Conjugation In Indicative
Tener Verb Conjugation In Indicative

Tener Verb Conjugation In Subjunctive

Tener Verb Conjugation In Subjunctive
Tener Verb Conjugation In Subjunctive

Tener Verb Conjugation In Imperative

Tener Verb Conjugation In Imperative
Tener Verb Conjugation In Imperative

Tener Verb Conjugation In Other Forms

Tener Verb Conjugation In Other Forms
Tener Verb Conjugation In Other Forms

Meaning And Expressions Of ‘Tener’

Now that you know how to conjugate tener, let’s use it to form common expressions in Spanish. In English we use different verbs to say some of these ideas, so you should study the ideas behind these expressions instead of trying to translate their meanings word for word.

Tener literally means “to have” and is used in a number of idiomatic expressions.

Tener translations/meanings are

  • to have
  • to hold
  • to possess
  • to contain
  • to be

Acostarse Conjugation – Spanish Verb

How To Use Tener To Mean ‘to be’

In many expressions, tener means ‘to be’

  • Spanish: tener 25 años
    • English: to be 25 years old
  • Spanish: tener ángel
    • English: to be charming
  • Spanish: tener buena, mala estrella
    • English: to be lucky, unlucky
  • Spanish: tener calor, frío
    • English: to be hot, cold
  • Spanish: tener celos de
    • English: to be jealous of
  • Spanish: tener cuidado
    • English: to be careful
  • Spanish: tener la culpa de
    • English: to be to blame for
  • Spanish: tener éxito
    • English: to be successful
  • Spanish: tener hambre, sed
    • English: to be hungry, thirsty
  • Spanish: tener madera para
    • English: to be made for, cut out for
  • Spanish: tener malas pulgas
    • English: to be short-tempered
  • Spanish: tener miedo de
    • English: to be afraid of
  • Spanish: tener mundo
    • English: to be sophisticated
  • Spanish: tener prisa
    • English: to be in a hurry
  • Spanish: tener razón
    • English: to be right
  • Spanish: tener sueño
    • English: to be sleepy
  • Spanish: tener suerte
    • English: to be lucky
  • Spanish: tener vergüenza de
    • English: to be ashamed of

How To Use Tener To Mean ‘To Have’

Most of the time, tener is used in much the same way as “to have” is in English. Depending on the context, it can also be translated using synonyms such as “to possess” and “to own”:

  • Spanish: Tengo tres hijos.
    • English: I have three children.
  • Spanish: Tiene un coche casi nuevo con una garantía fuerte.
    • English: He owns an almost new car with a strong guarantee.
  • Spanish: Antes de la guerra, tenía tres casas.
    • English: Before the war, she possessed three houses.
  • Spanish: Tuvimos cuatro campeones en el mismo momento.
    • English: We had four champions at the same time.
  • Spanish: En 2016 Paulina no tenía carné de conducir.
    • English: In 2016 Paulina didn’t have a driver’s license.
  • Spanish: No tenemos suficientes bosques en el planeta.
    • English: We don’t have enough forests on our planet.
  • Spanish: Crees que tendremos una mujer presidente?
    • English: Do you believe we will have a female president?

Tener can similarly be used similarly as “to have” even when it is used figuratively or referring to nonphysical things:

  • Spanish: Espero que tengas una buena excusa.
    • I hope you have a good excuse.
  • Spanish: Mi amigo tiene dificultad para pronunciar las palabras españolas.
    • My friend has difficulty pronouncing Spanish words.
  • Spanish: Cada líder debe tener una visión de lo que podría ser.
    • Every leader should have a vision of what could be.

Repetir Conjugation – Definition & Preterite

Idiomatic Uses of Tener

Expressions using tener are also quite common. Many of them would not be understood by English speakers to indicate possession, although they often can be thought of as referring to the having of various emotions and feelings.

For example, tener hambre would be translated literally as “to have hunger,” although it would normally be understood as “to be hungry.” The following listing, which is far from complete, shows some of the common expressions or idioms using tener:

  • no tener antecedentes (to be unprecedented)

Example: La crisis venezolana no tiene antecedentes. (The Venezuelan crisis is unprecedented.)

  • no tener arreglo (to be beyond repair)

Example: Siento que esta semana no tiene arreglo. (I feel this week is beyond repair.)

  • tener calor (to be or to feel hot)

Example: ¿Tienes calor? (Are you hot?)

  • tener cuidado (to be careful)

Example: ¡Ten cuidado! (Be careful!)

  • tener dolor (to have a pain, to be in pain)

Example: Hay muchos excelentes remedios para dolor de cabeza. (There are many excellent remedies for a headache.)

  • tener la culpa (to be at fault)

Example: Mi madre dice que tengo la culpa. (My mother says it’s my fault.)

  • tener efecto (to have an effect, to be in effect)

Example: La patente dejó de tener efecto antes de que el dispositivo comenzara a ser utilizado a gran escala. (The patent went out of effect before the device began to be used on a large scale.)

  • tener éxito (to be successful)

Example: Mi hermano tiene mucho éxito. (My brother is very successful.)

  • tener frío (to be or feel cold)

Example: Los exploradores tendrán frío. (The explorers will be cold.)

  • tener hambre (to be hungry)

Example: Los niños siempre tienen hambre. (The children are always hungry.)

  • tenerlo fácil (to have it easy)

Example: Los dos equipos no lo tienen fácil. (The two teams don’t have it easy.)

  • tener miedo (to be afraid)

Example: El paracaidista no tenía miedo. (The parachute jumper wasn’t afraid.)

  • tener prisa (to be in a hurry)

Example: Mi hija nunca tiene prisa. (My daughter is never in a hurry.)

  • tener que + infinitive (to have to)

Example: Tengo que salir. (I have to leave.)

  • tener razón, no tener razón (to be right, to be wrong)

Example: Tengo razón. No tienes razón. (I’m right. You’re wrong.)

  • tener sed (to be thirsty)

Example: El camello no tiene sed. (The camel isn’t thirsty.)

  • tener suerte (to be lucky)

Example: Los ganadores tenían suerte. (The winners were lucky.)

Important Points To Remember

  • Tener usually means “to have” in the sense of “to possess,” but not “have” when it is used as an auxiliary verb.
  • Tener is highly irregular, not using the same conjugation as any other verb other than those that derive from tener.
  • A wide variety of phrases use tener which frequently is used for indicating emotions and various personal feelings.

Dormir Conjugation – Spanish, French, Preterite


What are the 4 ways to use tener?

4 Ways to use Tener (to have) in Spanish

  1. to speak about age, edad.
  2. to talk about possessions and posesiones.
  3. with several expressions about states or needs, expresiones de estados o necesidades.
  4. to speak about illnesses or sickness, enfermedades.

How do you use tienen in a sentence?

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.

What is tener used for?

Tener means ‘to have’. In its most basic form, it is used to express possession and necessity. At other times, it is used commonly in phrasing in which you’d normally use the verb ‘to be’.

How do I use tener in a sentence?

In Spanish, we use the verb tener (to have) to talk about age.

To say I am number years old, we use tengo + number of years + años.

Yo tengo veintiséis años. I am twenty-six years old.

How to Conjugate the French Verb Lire?: Definition & Examples