Spanish Expressions with Tener

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Spanish Language

Spanish Expressions with Tener

Spanish Expressions with Tener – Some sentences in Spanish utilize the verb tener (to have) when the English equivalent would be “to be,” which might be a bit of a curve ball for a beginner learning Spanish. I have 25 years” and “I have hunger ” are the Spanish equivalents of the English phrases “I am 25 years old” and “I am hungry.”

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    man in suit jacket standing beside projector screen Spanish Expressions with Tener
    Spanish Expressions with Tener

    Yo tengo 25 años. =  I’m 25 years old.

    Yo tengo hambre. = I’m hungry.

    We’re not debating the merits of one verb tense over another, as some have done with the ser vs. estar debate (for more on that, read our blog post on the subject). Merely commit to memory the following phrases using tener, and you will be well on your way.

    The additional good news is that, unlike with ser and estar + an adjective, the “descriptor” does not need to be altered to fit the gender or number of the subject. If you want to express “I am tall” (soy alto/alta), the adjective you choose must coincide with the gender and number of the subject: alto for men, alta for women, altos for men, and altas for women. As we discussed, “Yo tengo hambre” literally translates to “I have hunger.” As “hunger” is a noun, it does not need modification to match the subject as would be the case with adjectives. See how it works in this example:

    yo tengo hambre                        nosotros/nosotras temenos hambre

    tú tienes hambre                         vosotros tenéis hambre

    usted tiene hambre                     ustedes tienen hambre

    él/ella tiene hambre                    ellos/ellas tienen hambre

    That is to say, once you are comfortable with these phrases and have mastered the conjugation of tener, you will be ready to go!


    Your list is shown below, along with illustrations of each item. Although Spanish pronouns are not often used in everyday conversation, we have included them for the sake of clarity:

    • TENER CALOR: to be hot
      • Yo tengo calor. I’m hot.
    • TENER FRÍO: to be cold
      • Tú tienes frío. You are cold.     
    • TENER HAMBRE: to be hungry
      • Usted tiene hambre. You are hungry.
    • TENER SED: to be thirsty
      • Él tiene sed. He is thirsty.
    • TENER SUEÑO: to be sleepy
      • Ella tiene sueño. She is sleepy.
    • TENER MIEDO: to be frightened
      • Nosotros temenos miedo. We are frightened.
    • TENER _ AÑOS: to be _ years old
      • Nosotras tenemos 15 años. We are 15 years old.
    • TENER PRISA: to be in a hurry
      • Vosotros tenéis prisa. You are in a hurry.
    • TENER RAZÓN: to be right
      • Ustedes tienen  razón. You are correct/right.
    • NO TENER RAZÓN: to be wrong
      • Ellos no tienen razón. They are wrong/not correct.
    • TENER ORGULLO: to be proud
      • Ellas tienen orgullo. They are proud.
    • TENER SUERTE: to be lucky
      • Yo tengo suerte. I am lucky.
    • TENER CELOS: to be jealous
      • Tú tienes celos. You are jealous.
    • TENER CONFIANZA: to be confident
      • Usted tiene confianza. You are confident.
    • TENER CUIDADO: to be careful
      • Él tiene cuidado. He is careful.
    • TENER VERGÜENZA: to be embarrassed/ashamed
      • Ella tiene vergüenza. She is embarrassed.
    • TENER ÉXITO: to be successful
      • Nosotros temenos éxito. We are successful.
    • TENER CULPA: to be guilty/at fault
      • Vosotros tenéis culpa. You are in a guilty/it’s your fault.
    • Bonus Expressions with Tener
      • While these three don’t take “to be” in English, they are useful expressions to know and have in your back pocket!
    • TENER GANAS: to feel like/be in the mood for
      • Yo tengo ganas de cantar. I feel like singing.
    • TENER EN CUENTA: to keep in mind/take into account
      • Tú tienes en cuenta el costo. You take the cost into account.
    • TENER LUGAR: to take place
      • La cermonia tiene lugar en el estadio The ceremony takes place in the stadium.

    Be Wary of Falling Into the Wild Card Traps!

    When you are first becoming familiar with these ideas, it is simple to make the error of substituting the verbs ser or estar for tener. This is due to the fact that in English, all of these verbs imply “to be.” BEWARE! Even while it could seem like a little slip-up, you might end up saying something that is quite different in its connotation if you make it. Here are a few instances of how things may get somewhat distorted when conveyed in a different language.


    Because the noun and adjective forms of fro seem very similar to one another, you need to be rather careful about the structure of your sentences to ensure that you communicate exactly what you want to say when using this word.

    Ellos tienen frío.              They are cold. (they need a blanket)

    Ellos son fríos.                 They are cold. (they are unfriendly people)

    Ellos estan fríos.              They are cold. (they are cold to the touch)


    Because the noun form (calor) of the word is so unlike to the adjectival form (caliente), the example of calor vs caliente is one that is somewhat simpler (caliente).

    Ellos tienen calor.             They are hot. (they need A/C)

    Ellos son calientes.          They are hot. (as in the x-rated variety, they are in heat)

    Ellos estan calientes.       They are hot. (they are hot to the touch, but could also be the x-rated variety)


    These two phrases have a meaning that is somewhat like to one another, but their constructions are different depending on which one you choose.

    Yo tengo sueño. I’m sleepy.

    Yo estoy cansado. I’m tired.


    A “false friend” is a term that sounds similar to an English on but has an entirely different meaning, and here is a straightforward example of such a trap:

    Tener vergüenza means “to be embarrassed”

    Estar Embarazada means “to be pregnant”.

    This should be enough to keep you out of trouble or just something to play with and see what reactions you get.

    Happy Learning!

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