Gramática: Expresiones con tener y tener + que


  • Recognize and understand the common expressions with the verb tener
  • Use tener + que + infinitive to describe things one has to do

Tener + noun for physical conditions

There are a number of idiomatic expressions that combine forms of tener with certain nouns to express some physical conditions of people; these are expressed with “to be” in English, so you’ll have to pay close attention to remembering the Spanish way of saying them.

  • Tener calor = to be/feel hot (literally, “to have heat”)
  • Tener frío = to be/feel cold
  • Tener hambre = to be hungry
  • Tener miedo = to be afraid
  • Tener prisa = to be in a hurry
  • Tener sed = to be thirsty
  • Tener vergüenza = to be embarrassed
  • Tener ganas de = to be in the mood for
  • Tener sueño = to be sleepy
  • Tener suerte = to have luck, be fortunate
  • tener # años = to be # years old

Tener + que + infinitive: to have to

The verb tener doesn’t just mean “to have” in the sense of possession: it is also used when we try to convey something that we have to do or need to do, following the structure: tener + que + infinitive. This is an example of a modal verb construction where “tener” is conjugated and the other verb is not; it’s different from English in that you need the word “que” to complete the meaning.

  • Play AudioEste semestre tengo que estudiar mucho. (This semester I have to study a lot.)
  • Play AudioEsteban tiene que hacer la tarea para su clase de literatura. (Esteban has to do the homework for his literature class.)
  • Play AudioNosotros tenemos que hablar con nuestra profesora de español. (We have to speak with our Spanish professor.)