Common “Tener” Expressions


<<Tener>> is a Spanish verb meaning “to have.” In addition to meaning “to have,” <<tener>> can also be joined with other phrases to create idioms that have special meanings. For example, an common English idiom is being “above the law.” Even though the word ‘above’ means to be physically over something, the phrase “above the law” means to be better than the law.

The same is true for idioms in Spanish. For example, an common <<tener>> expression is <<tener frío.>> This phrase directly translates to “to have a cold” but in actuality this phrase is understood as “to be cold.” Tener expressions are often used to explain physical feelings or mental emotions.

Common tener expressions involving physical feelings include:

  • tener hambre – to be hungry
  • tener calor – to be hot
  • tener frío – to be cold
  • tener sed – to be thirsty
  • tener sueño – to be tired

Common tener expressions using mental emotions include:

  • tener miedo de + infinitive – to be afraid
  • tener prisa – to be in a hurry
  • tener ganas de + infinitive – to have the desire to
  • tener razón – to be right
  • tener cariño – to be fond
  • tener celos – to be jealous
  • tener cuidado – to be careful
  • tener la culpa – to be guilty, to be at fault
  • tener ilusión – to be enthusiastic
  • tener vergüenza – to be embarrassed

Other examples of tener expressions include:

  • tener … años – to be ____ years old
  • tener suerte – to be lucky
  • tener éxito – to be successful
  • tener que – to have to (ex: complete something)
  • tener lugar – to take place (ex: this afternoon)
  • tener derecho – to have the right (ex: to vote)



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