Tener‘Tener’, usually translated as ‘to have‘, is a very useful verb. It’s primary use is to indicate possession. However, in Spanish ‘tener’ is used in a number of idiomatic expressions that indicate emotions and states.

As with the verbs ‘ser’ and ‘estar’, the English verb ‘to have’ has two versions in Spanish; ‘tener’ which we will cover here, and ‘haber’. ‘Haber’ (which is covered here), is the equivalent of the English auxiliary verb ‘to have‘ as in ‘you have played’ and should never be used to express possession.

Here are the conjugations of the verb tener’ in the present tense.
(For a complete printable conjugation sheet, showing all the irregular parts of ‘tener’ click here or on the image above)

Yo tengo
I have
Tú tienes
You have (familiar)(sing.)
Él tiene
He has
Ella tiene
She has
Nosotros tenemos
We have
Vosotros teneis
You have (polite)(plur.)
Ellos tienen
They have

Most of the time the verb ‘tener‘ is used in very much the same way as the possessive form of ‘to have’ in English:

Yo tengo dos hijos I have two children
El tiene un coche blanco He has a white car
Tuvimos cuatro casas We had four houses
Ellos tienen una escuela buena They have a good school

However, this is not always the case…

Some common expressions using the irregular Spanish verb ‘tener‘:

In Spanish many things are possessed that in English would make no sense at all, for example in Spanish you have hunger rather than being hungry, and you have 20 years rather than being 20 years old.

Here is a list of some of the most commonly used expressions.

tener calor to be or to feel hot
tener ____ años to be ____ years old
tener cuidado to be careful
tener la culpa to be at fault
tener éxito to be successful
tener frío to be or feel cold
tener hambre to be hungry
tener miedo to be afraid
tener prisa to be in a hurry
tener que + infinitive to have to…
tener razón to be right
no tener razón to be wrong
tener sed to be thirsty
tener suerte to be lucky