Idiomatic expressions using the Spanish verb tener are common but before going into these expressions in more detail I will explain what an idiom is for those of you who may not know.

In short, an idiom is an expression that cannot be immediately understood if translated literally. A few examples of idioms in English are: to have ‘a strong stomach‘, to be ‘as good as new‘ and to ‘jump the gun‘.

There are many such idioms in Spanish and many of these use the verb Tener

Idiomatic Expressions Using Tener

There are quite a few idioms that use tener followed by a noun whereas in English ‘to be’ would be used followed by an adjective.

  • tener … años – to be … years old
  • tener calor – to be hot
  • tener cuidado – to be careful
  • tener en cuenta – to keep in mind
  • tener éxito – to be successful
  • tener frío – to be cold
  • tener ganas de – to be eager to do, to feel like
  • tener gracia – to be funny
  • tener hambre – to be hungry
  • tener miedo – to be afraid
  • tener paciencia – to be patient
  • tener prisa – to be in a hurry
  • tener razón – to be right
  • tener sed – to be thirsty
  • tener sueño – to be sleepy
  • tener suerte – to be lucky

There are also those expressions that use tener que followed by an infinitive which translates as ‘to have to’ or ‘must’:

  • tener que hacer – to have things to do
  • tener que ver con – to have to do with
  • tener que salir – to have to go out
  • tener que comer – to have to eat