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The uses of the verb Tener


The verb tener (to have) is a very common verb in Spanish. It is used so frequently because of its many different uses. We’ll review the four main functions for the verb with examples on how it is used. Below is the present tense conjugation:

Tener (to have)

tengo tenemos
tiene tienen

Below are explanations of the main uses for this verb.

The most common use of tener is to express possession.

Él tiene tres gatos.
Nosotros tenemos una hija.
Yo no tengo tiempo.
Ellas tienen mis libros.
He has three cats.
We have a daughter.
I don’t have time.
They have my books.

In Spanish, we use tener to express how many years we have, rather than saying how old we are.

Ella tiene veinticinco años.
Yo tengo treinta y dos años.
Marcos tiene dieciséis años.
¿Cuántos años tienes tú?
She is twenty-five years old.
I am thirty-two years old.
Marcos is sixteen years old.
How old are you?

Idiomatic Expressions
There are several expressions in Spanish using the verb tener where we would use the verb ‘to be’ in English. Instead of being afraid, someone has fear. Below is a list of common expressions.

tener hambre
tener sed

tener frío
tener calor

tener miedo

tener suerte

tener prisa

tener razón
to be hungry
to be thirsty
to be cold
to be hot
to be afraid
to be lucky
to be in a hurry
to be right


Yo no tengo hambre ahora.
Tú siempre tienes razón.
Nosotros tenemos sed.
Ella tiene miedo de arañas.
I am not hungry now.
You are always right.
We are thirsty.
She is afraid of spiders.

When we have to do an action, we use the verb tener + que + infinitive of the action.

Juan tiene que limpiar hoy.
Ellos tienen que trabajar.
Tú tienes que estudiar.
Yo no tengo que decir nada.
Juan has to clean today.
They have to work.
You have to study.
I don’t have to say anything.