How to use the verb 'to have' in Spanish by practising 'tener'

'Tener' - to have

Tener (to have) is used to show possession or to say what you have.

For example:

  • Tengo una madre y dos hermanos - I have a mum and two brothers.

  • ¿Tienes pecas? - Do you have freckles?

  • Mi hermano tiene un perro negro y un conejo blanco - My brother has a black dog and a white rabbit.

Put no in front of the verb to say that you don’t have something.

For example:

  • No tengo un bolígrafo azul - I don’t have a blue pen.

Use the different parts of the verb tener in the table to say what you, other people or things have or don’t have.

tengoI have
tienesyou have
tienehe/she/it has

Using 'tener' for age

In Spanish you use tener to talk about your age, unlike in English which doesn’t use the verb ‘to have’ but the verb ‘to be’.

For example:

  • ¿Cuántos años tienes? - How old are you?

  • Tengo doce años - I am 12 (years old).

'Mi madre tiene cuarenta años'

Other uses of 'tener'

Tener is also used for some other phrases.

tengo sueñoI am sleepy
tengo sedI am thirsty
tengo hambreI am hungry
tengo calorI am hot
tengo fríoI am cold

For example:

  • ¿Tienes hambre? - Are you hungry?

  • No, no tengo hambre, pero tengo sed - No, I am not hungry, but I am thirsty.

  • Tengo frío, voy a ponerme un jersey - I am cold, I am going to put a jumper on.

  • Mi hermana tiene sueño - My sister is sleepy.

'Tener' in the past

To talk about the past, the imperfect tense of tener is really useful. It helps you talk about things you used to have or how old you used to be.

For example:

  • Cuando tenía diez años, tenía un perro - When I was ten years old, I had a dog.

Can you use different parts of the verb tener in the imperfect to say what you, someone else or something used to have?

teníaI had
teníasyou had
teníahe/she/it had

'Tener' in the future

Use tener in the immediate future to say what you are going to have or what you are going to be, if you are using tener to mean 'to be' in English.

For example:

  • ¡Voy a tener una hermanita! - I am going to have a little sister.
  • Vas a tener muchos amigos en el colegio nuevo - You are going to have many friends in your new school.
  • Mañana va a tener hambre - Tomorrow he is going to be hungry.
  • Vas a tener calor porque hace sol - You are going to be hot because it is sunny.

Can you use different parts of the verb tener to say what you, someone else or something is going to have?

voy a tenerI am going to have
vas a teneryou are going to have
va a tenerhe/she/it is going to have

Have go at this activity to check your understanding of the verb 'to have'.


Find out how much you know about the verb 'to have' in Spanish with this short quiz!

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