There are hundreds of expressions with _tener_ in Spanish. One of the most common uses is to use it as the English "to be". We've rounded up 10 of the most common expressions you'll come across. Hope they help!

Yawning woman wrapped in duvet.
La mujer tiene sueño - The woman is sleepy

1. Tener hambre/sueño/frío – to be hungry/sleepy/cold

In Spanish you’re not hungry, you have hunger. The verb tener is used to express different states of being. Instead of saying “I’m afraid”, “I’m cold”, or “I’m hungry”, you would use tener. In all these cases you are not the thing, but rather you have the thing, or state of being.

¡Cuánto calor hoy! Tengo mucha sed.
What a hot day! I’m so thirsty.

⚠️ Careful

❌ I am very hungry ≠ Tengo muy hambre

When you want to express just how sleepy, frightened, shameful etc. you feel, you need to use mucho/mucha/muchos/muchas.

Mucho must agree with the gender and number it modifies.

✅ Tengo mucha hambre.

La hambre is feminine and mucha reflects this.

2. Tener ganas de + infinitivo – to feel like (doing something)

This is a great expression that you can use every day to express something you’re hankering for. When you have a strong desire or feeling to do something, then you have the ganas.

Tengo muchas ganas de ir de vacaciones. No puedo soportar más estar en casa.
I really feel like going on vacation. I can’t stand being in this house anymore.

A woman looking in the fridge and eyeing the desserts.
Tengo ganas de comer algo dulce - I feel like eating something sweet

3. Tener que – to have to

Tener que means to have to in English. Lucky for you, their structures are very similar so they should be easy enough to remember. What do you have to do today?

Hoy tengo que pagar el alquiler.
Today I have to pay the rent.

4. Tener (número) años – to be (number) years old

It may seem odd at first to use tener to express your age, but that’s just something you have to get used to. You have a certain number of years and that’s it.

¿Cuántos años tiene tu hija?
How old is your daughter now?

Girl in front of a birthday cake covering her mouth in surprise.
Mi hija va a tener 5 años - My daughter will be 5 years old

5. Tener pensado – to intend to

When you have an idea in your head that you’ve been mulling over, it becomes an intention. This is where you would use tener pensado. In Spanish, it literally translates to have thought.

Serena tiene pensado viajar a Roma después de acabar su clase.
Serena intends to travel to Rome after finishing her class.

6. Tener prisa – to be in a hurry

To have hurry in Spanish basically means to be in a rush. This could come in handy if you’re at a restaurant, have a doctor’s appointment and many more situations.

¿Nos puedes traer la cuenta, porfa? Tengo prisa.
Can you bring us the bill, please? I’m in a hurry.

Professional woman walking while drinking coffee.
Clara tiene muchas cosas que hacer, siempre tiene prisa - Clara has a lot of things to do, she's always in a rush

7. Tener que ver con – to have to do with

This Spanish expression with tener has nothing to do with seeing. It actually means to be connected with or have something to do with.

No sé de lo que hables. Lo que dices no tiene nada que ver conmigo.
I don’t know what you’re talking about. What you’re saying has nothing to do with me.

8. Tener éxito – to be successful

To have éxito doesn’t mean you have an exit. The word éxito (although it sounds incredibly similar to the English exit) is a false friend and means success. If you have éxito it means you are successful – lucky you! False friends are so interesting, right?

Mi tío Juan tuvo mucho éxito después de que vendió su primera empresa.
My uncle Juan was very successful after he sold his first company.

Woman looking at paper report looking very happy.
Tuvimos mucho éxito este cuarto - We were very successful this quarter

9. Tener razón – to be right

In Spanish, you aren’t right. You hold the state of reason. It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? If you’re in an argument or just want to point out that someone is more reasonable than another, use: tiene razón.

Rodri siempre tiene razón.
Rodri *is always righ*t.

10. Tener en cuenta – to keep in mind

This expression with tener can mean both to keep in mind or take into account. If you want to remind someone of something or bring something to their attention, you would use tener en cuenta.

Ten en cuenta que ella fue amable contigo.
Keep in mind that she was very kind to you.

Young girl pointing at her head as a reminder.

These are just 10 Spanish expressions with tener that we covered but there are many more than this! Can you think of any others?

April 12th, 2021

Posted in Learn Spanish

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