How to Use the Spanish Verb “Tener”

The Spanish verb “tener,” which means “to have” in English, is a fundamental and frequently used verb in the Spanish language. This is because it serves various purposes, such as indicating possession, age, expressing idiomatic expressions, and denoting obligation. In this chapter, we will delve into these four essential uses of the verb “tener.” Below is the complete conjugation of “tener” in the present tense, keeping in mind its irregularity:

How to Conjugate “Tener” in the Present Tense:

Tener – to have

  • Tengo – I have
  • Tienes – You have
  • Tiene – He/She has
  • Tenemos – We have
  • Tenéis – You (all) have
  • Tienen – They have

Check the full conjugation of the verb Tener here. This is also where you can download the Tener conjugation chart PDF.


The simplest and most common use of “tener” is to show possession. For example:

  • I have a dog.
  • You have a brother.
  • Juan has a cat.
  • We have five dollars.
  • You all have a beautiful house.
  • They have the forks.


In Spanish, unlike in English where we use the verb “to be” to express age, we “have” years. For instance, we say “Tengo veintinueve años” to express that we are twenty-nine years old. When asking about someone’s age or the age of something, we literally ask how many years a person or thing “has.” Examples:

  • ¿Cuántos años tienes tú? – How old are you?
  • Tengo 23 años – I am 23 years old.

Idiomatic Expressions with “Tener”

There are several phrases in Spanish that use “tener” where we use the verb “to be” in English to convey the same meaning. For example, instead of saying “being hungry” (“to be” + adjective) in English, in Spanish, we say that we “have hunger” (“to have” + noun). Here is a list of the most common idiomatic expressions:

  • Tengo hambre – I am hungry
  • Tengo sed – I am thirsty
  • Tengo frío – I am cold
  • Tengo calor – I am hot
  • Tengo miedo – I am scared
  • Tengo suerte – I am lucky
  • Tengo prisa – I am in a hurry
  • Tengo sueño – I am sleepy
  • Tengo razón – I am right


To express obligation, follow this pattern by conjugating “tener” according to the subject. “Tener” + que + infinitive. The English equivalent would to “I have to…”. Lets look at some examples:

  • Tengo que irme – I have to go
  • Tengo que comprar algo – I have to buy something.
  • Tengo que estudiar – You have to study.
  • Tengo que limpiar la casa – You all have to clean the house.

Exploring the multifaceted uses of “tener” opens the door to the rich world of the Spanish language. We hope this article has helped you understand how to use this versatile verb effectively in your everyday communication!