person-standing-on-rails-with-arms-open-facing-the-mountains-covered-by-clouds

14 Spanish Expressions with Tener That Go Beyond “To Have”

You probably know the word tener means “to have.”

It’s a common word, too, used in a wide variety of phrases and expressions.

Between its irregular yo form and an affinity for stem-changing, tener is an ongoing conjugation challenge that only gets easier with a lot of practice

Learning some of the most common Spanish expressions with tener will help you get the hang of this challenging verb—and you’ll even come away with a few colorful phrases to add to your repertoire to communicate like a native speaker!

Contents

1. Tener que — To have to

For those times when you just have to do something, tener que is the phrase you’re looking for.

This is one of those uses of que that illustrates the flexibility of the word (translating as “to” rather than the usual “that”), but just think of the whole phrase as “to have to” and you’ll be good to go.

Tengo que comprar unas manzanas.
I have to buy a few apples.

No tenemos que visitar la biblioteca mañana.
We don’t have to visit the library tomorrow.

Curated authentic video library for all levels
  • Thousands of learner friendly videos (especially beginners)
  • Handpicked, organized, and annotated by FluentU's experts
  • Integrated into courses for beginners
Learn more about FluentU
Learn more about FluentU

2. Tener un buen día — To have a good day

This phrase is mostly used when saying goodbye if you want to wish someone a nice day—and hey, life’s too short not to offer well wishes.

Of course, it’s impossible to know whether the person in question will then have a good day or not, so you’ll need to break out the subjunctive mood for this one.

Another hint: The expression generally carries que (that) at the front, with the implication being something like “(I hope) that you have a nice day.”

Tengo que salir. Que tengas un buen día.
I have to leave. Have a good day.

Adiós, María. Adiós, Carlos. Que tengan un buen día.
Goodbye, Maria. Goodbye, Carlos. Have a good day.

3. Tener que ver (con) — To have to do (with)

You know how to say “to have,” and you know how to say “to do,” but if you start going on about “X tiene que hacer con Y,” you’re likely to get some funny looks. Nope! The expression in Spanish is tener que ver.

Mi queja tiene que ver con el servicio a la habitación.
My complaint has to do with the room service.

Eso no tiene nada que ver.
That has nothing to do with it.

4. Tenerlo fácil — To have it easy

Fortunately, there are still a few Spanish expressions that are exactly what the label says. Tenerlo fácil literally means “to have it easy,” and it means the same thing it does in English.

Video player for learners like you
  • Interactive subtitles: click any word to see detailed examples and explanations
  • Slow down or loop the tricky parts
  • Show or hide subtitles
  • Review words with our powerful learning engine
Learn more about FluentU
Learn more about FluentU

Juan tiene un trabajo que paga bien. Lo tiene muy fácil.
Juan has a job that pays well. He has it so easy.

Si quieres tenerlo fácil, debes trabajar duro al principio.
If you want to have it easy, you should work hard in the beginning.

5. Tener hambre/sed/sueño — To be hungry/thirsty/sleepy

Tener is also used to express various states of being.

While in English we would say “I’m hungry,” “I’m cold” or “I’m in a hurry,” a Spanish-speaker would use tener. For instance, tengo hambre—literally “I have hunger”—means the same thing same thing as “I’m hungry.”

¿Tienes calor? Has trabajado todo el día bajo el sol.
Are you hot? You’ve worked in the sun all day.

No puedo hablar ahora. Tengo prisa.
I can’t talk now. I’m in a hurry.

6. Tener (número) años — To be (number) years old

On a related note, tener can also express age. How many years do you have?

No puedes beber cerveza hasta que tengas 21 años.
You can’t drink beer until you’re 21 years old.

Después de mi cumpleaños, tendré 25 años.
After my birthday, I will be 25 years old.

Master words through quizzes with context
  • Learn words in the context of sentences
  • Swipe left or right to see more examples from other videos
  • Go beyond just a superficial understanding
Learn more about FluentU
Learn more about FluentU

7. Tener lugar — To take place

Do you need to describe where something is happening? Don’t be fooled into using tomar (to take) for this expression. It’ll have to be tener!

Esta escena tiene lugar en un bosque cerca de Atenas.
This scene takes place in a forest near Athens.

La conferencia tendrá lugar en Nueva York.
The conference will take place in New York.

8. Tener ganas de (infinitivo) — To feel like (doing something)

Try not to get this mixed up with ganar (to win, to gain). Gana simply means “desire” or “wish.” Therefore, tener ganas de followed by a verb expresses a desire or wish to do something.

Después de esa comida, tengo ganas de dar una vuelta.
After that meal, I feel like taking a walk.

Supongo que no tiene ganas de jugar con nosotros.
I suppose he/she doesn’t feel like playing with us.

9. Tener en cuenta — To take into account

You might be familiar with cuenta from previous adventures in restaurant Spanish: The word means “account” and can also be used for “bill” or “check.”

When used with tener, however, it refers to taking something into account in the sense of keeping it in mind.

Ten en cuenta que aún tengo que devolver la chaqueta.
Take into account that I still have to return the jacket.

Stop memorizing words.
Start building sentences.
  • FluentU builds you up, so you can build sentences on your own
  • Start with multiple-choice questions and advance through sentence building to producing your own output
  • Go from understanding to speaking in a natural progression.
Learn more about FluentU
Learn more about FluentU

Tuve en cuenta la edad del carro cuando lo compré.
I took the age of the car into account when I bought it.

10. Tener éxito — To be successful

Once you’ve learned not to be tripped up by the false cognate éxito (the word means “success,” not “exit”), it’s time to get used to placing tener in front of it.

“To have success” may sound strange to an English speaker’s ears, but tener éxito is the equivalent of phrases that are more common in English: “to be successful” or “to succeed.”

Ha tenido éxito en todo lo que hace.
He’s been successful at everything he does.

Es importante estudiar mucho para tener éxito en tus exámenes.
It’s important to study a lot to succeed on your exams.

11. Tener la culpa — To be at fault

Culpa means “fault” or “guilt” (yes, just like mea culpa in Latin), so, naturally, it’s not something you want to have.

However, if you ever feel the need to call out someone else’s wrongdoing (or your own), use tener la culpa.

No tiene la culpa de lo que sucedió en la casa.
What happened at the house isn’t his fault.

Les voy a convencer de que tienes la culpa.
I’m going to convince them that you’re to blame.

Accurate, detailed word explanations made for you
  • Images, examples, video examples, and tips
  • Covering all the tricky edge cases, eg.: phrases, idioms, collocations, and separable verbs
  • No reliance on volunteers or open source dictionaries
  • 100,000+ hours spent by FluentU's team to create and maintain
Learn more about FluentU
Learn more about FluentU

12. Tener a (alguien/algo) por — To take (someone/something) for

We’ve already seen how tener can line up with “to take” in certain phrases. If you keep that in mind, you should have no trouble understanding how it’s being used here.

Me tuvieron por un plomero o milusos o algo.
They took me for a plumber or handyman or something.

Tengo a Carlos por un amigo leal.
I consider Carlos to be a loyal friend.

13. No tener remedio — To not be able to be helped

There are plenty of times in life when your problems don’t have easy solutions and when you feel like throwing your hands up and saying it can’t be helped.

Fortunately, learning how to use the phrase no tener remedio isn’t one of those situations.

Quería solucionar el problema, pero no tiene remedio.
I wanted to solve the problem, but it can’t be helped.

Su tendencia a comportarse como un bobo no tiene remedio.
His tendency to act like a fool can’t be helped.

14. Tener claro — To be sure

Claro means “clear,” so tener claro is used for situations when something is very clear to someone or when someone is sure about something.

Tienen claro que el proyecto es necesario.
They’re sure that the project is necessary.

Hi, I'm Alan! I became obsessed with learning Chinese, Japanese, and Korean in 2001, and managed to get good enough to work professionally in those languages as a management consultant.

I started FluentU to build a new kind of language app.
Want to learn more about how FluentU got started?

Tengo claro que tengo que seguir aprendiendo español.
It’s clear to me that I have to keep learning Spanish.

How to Practice Expressions with Tener 

The phrases included in this post are just a small sample of the expressive prowess of tener. To keep practicing on your own, try the following tips:

 

If words are the building blocks of language, tener is like a keystone. The fact that it’s used in so many different expressions means that mastering the word is an important step toward learning how to express yourself in new ways.

Keep practicing tener, keep using the phrases in this post and tendrás mucho éxito  (you’ll be very successful).

¡Que tengas un buen día! (Have a good day!)

And One More Thing…

If you've made it this far that means you probably enjoy learning Spanish with engaging material and will then love FluentU.

Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.

FluentU has a wide variety of videos, as you can see here:

learn-spanish-with-videos

FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.

learn-spanish-with-interactive-subtitled-videos

Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.

learn-spanish-with-songs

Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s robust learning engine. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.

learn-spanish-with-music-videos

The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning with the same video.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

Enter your e-mail address to get your free PDF!

We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe

Close