Tener conjugation: 8 practical Spanish chunks you can use anywhere! + AUDIO

TENER in SPANISH: Don’t Learn Conjugations By Heart, Do THIS Instead!

Hoy te tengo algo muy especial… (Today, I have something very special for you…) A video that’s entirely about conjugating the verb tener (to have)! 

We use this verb in tons of different situations, and I’m going to give you un montón de ejemplos (tons of examples) and chunks that’ll help you use tener conjugation correctly in any context.

¡Soy Maura de Spring Spanish, y tengo ganas de empezar! ¿Tu también? (I’m Maura from Spring Spanish and I want to get started! You too?) 

1. Tener Conjugation: All you need to know

All right, first and foremost, let’s get the conjugation out of the way. On screen, you’ll see a table which will give you the conjugation of the present tense for the verb tener (to have) .

It is important you keep in mind that this is only orientative, and you are not meant to memorize this, since that won’t help you when trying to actually speak. 

Todos los chunks que repasaremos en este video serán mucho más útiles. (All the chunks we’ll go through in this video will be much more helpful.)

In this table, though, everything in red represents deviations from the regular conjugation of the verbs in Spanish. Esa es mi manera de decirte que “tener” es un verbo muy irregular. (That is my way of telling you that to have” is a highly irregular verb.) 

Otra forma de verlo sería: la raíz de la palabra cambia junto con la terminación. (Another way to put this would be: the stem of the word changes along with the ending.)

Present Tense
Yo (I)tengo
Él/ Ella/ Usted(He/ She/You (formal))tiene
Nosotras/ Nosotros(We)tenemos
Ustedes/ Ellas/ Ellos/(You/They)tienen

Sin embargo, lo que sí es útil es que te familiarices con ciertos patrones y/o sonidos. (Nonetheless, what is actually useful is for you to familiarize yourself with certain patterns and/or sounds.) It is very similar to how regular verbs end:

  • Yo (I) ends with an “o” = yo tengo
  • (You): ends with an “s” = tienes
  • Él/ Ella/Usted (He/ She/ You (formal)) end with a vowel — “a” or “e” generally = ella tiene
  • Nosotras/Nosotros (We) end with “mos” =  nosotras tenemos
  • Ustedes/Ellas/Ellos (You/They) end with an “n” = ellos tienen
tener conjugation examples in a table on the left, female teacher on the right side

Of course, there are many verbs and plenty of irregular ones, but if you get a feeling for these ending sounds associating them with their pronoun, you’ll be more than halfway to managing conjugations in the present tense for most verbs in Spanish. 

Además, el resto de verbos derivados de “tener” como: contener, retener, detener o sostener siguen exactamente la misma conjugación que tener. (Also, all other verbs derived from “to have” like: to contain, to retain, to stop, to hold follow the exact same conjugation as to have.)

Recuerda que no tienes que aprendértelos de memoria. (Remember that you don’t have to learn them by heart.) Es mucho más fácil recordar chunks y a partir de allí deducir la conjugación. (It is much easier to remember chunks and from there deduce the conjugation.)


Yeih! Our first chunk. Tener que (To have to) works just as “to have to” does in English. It talks about obligations. 

En caso de que este sea tu primer video, bienvenido al canal y también al enlace que te dejamos en la descripción. (In case this is your first video, welcome to the channel and also to the link we left for you in the description.)

In it, you’ll find our Essential Spanish Chunking kit, a curated list of chunks you can’t live without in the Spanish world. 

✔️ Cheat Sheet with 54 essential Spanish Chunks you’ll hear and use yourself in ANY Spanish conversation (and example sentences). Taken from our YouTube Teacher’s most popular videos!

✔️ 2 Bonus Cheat Sheets with Travel Chunks and Dating/Relationship Chunks

✔️ A Spanish Chunking Tutorial showing you the 1 technique that’ll help you make 100% of the Spanish from our videos roll off the tongue in just 5 minutes a day (you’re probably only using 50% of our lessons’ potential right now…)

2. Tener in Spanish vs to have in English

In this section, we’ll cover those very important moments in which you cannot, whatsoever, create equivalencies between tener (to have) and to have.

Lo principal sería que “tener” tiene dos funciones diferentes en inglés. (The main thing would be that “to have” has 2 different roles in English.) One as a verb, which you can think of as actions. For those cases, like in: “I have a cat” it works exactly the same way as it does in Spanish. Yo tengo un gato.

In other cases it acts as an auxiliary verb, like in “I have been studying”. In this case, you must not use tener as a translation. In Spanish, it would be: he estado estudiando. See? No tener. This auxiliary use of “to have”, though, is actually the verb haber (to have) in Spanish. 

(You can read more on ‘to have’ in English on another site here.)

Keep in mind that if you learn Spanish with chunks, this problem will hardly ever arise. 

Mariana hizo todo un vídeo que habla sobre “haber”, en caso de que quieras saber más sobre el verbo. (Mariana made a video that talks about “haber”, in case you want to know more about the verb.) 

Also, make sure to stick till the end if you want to get the idiomatic expressions that will actually make you sound like you’re a pro when it comes to using the verb tener.

The other thing is the many cases in which tengo in Spanish is actually “I am” in English. Usually this happens with expressions of states, like being cold, or being afraid or being in pain. In Spanish, they are thought of as physical sensations and those things, including aches, are talked about with tener. Some of those instances could be:

  • Tengo frío. (I am cold.)
  • Tengo sed. (I am thirsty.)
  • Margarito tiene sueño. (Margarito is sleepy.)
  • Tengo dolor de cabeza. (I have a headache.)
tener conjugation examples on the left, female teacher touches her head with her hand

The more mental aspect of physical sensations such as fear or confidence, also falls under this category.

Here are more examples of it:

  • Tengo miedo.
    (I am afraid.) 
  • Tengo celos de la gente que vive con mejor clima.
    (I am jealous of people who live in better weather.)
  • Me encanta la gente que tiene confianza en sí misma.
    (I love people with self-confidence. )
  • Lo siento, me tengo que ir, ¡tengo prisa! 
    (I’m sorry, I have to go, I’m in a hurry!)

Notice how in this last example, I’m using the chunk tener que (to have to) to talk about the obligation of leaving and tengo prisa (I’m in a hurry) to talk about the state of being in a hurry.

Maybe you already know this last one, but, please remember that one of the biggest discrepancies will forever be age. “I am 100 years old” is tengo 100 años in Spanish. 

Es decir, una edad es algo que se tiene en español no algo que se es. (Meaning, an age is something you have in Spanish, not something you are.)

3. A lesson without a tener conjugation chart: idiomatic expressions! 

All right, now on to my favorite section. I love idiomatic expressions. Sinceramente, no recuerdo no saber inglés. (Honestly, I don’t remember not knowing English.) Pero, sí recuerdo no estar familiarizada con las expresiones idiomáticas y el momento en que eso cambió. (But, I do remember not being familiar with idiomatic expressions and the moment that changed.) It made all the difference. 

So, let’s go over some of my main ones with the verb tener and, hopefully, it’ll change things for you as well. As you’ll see, again, in many cases tener will be “to be” in English. 

I. Tener éxito (To be successful)

The word éxito (success) can’t be an action in Spanish, only a thing. So, if you want to use this word to ask whether someone succeeded at something, you necessarily tienes que (have to) use the verb tener (to have). In doing so, you can create the idea tener éxito (to have success). 

  • ACTOR 1: A ella le va muy bien en el extranjero. ¡Tiene mucho éxito! (She’s doing very well abroad. She has a lot of success!)

The similar idea of luck would also work with tener in Spanish. Like: 

  • ACTOR 1: A ella le va muy bien en el extranjero. ¡Tiene mucha suerte! (She’s doing very well abroad. She has a lot of luck!)

II. Tener la culpa (To be guilty)

Both the translation for “you are guilty” and “it is your fault” use the word culpa (guilt) in Spanish: tú tienes la culpa (you are guilty) and es tu culpa (it is your fault), respectively.

III. Tener mala cara (To have a bad face)

This has nothing to do with attractiveness! In English, we could say “to have a long face” for this, and it’ll mean essentially the same thing. So, we can say:

  • ACTOR 1: ¿Viste a Caro? (Did you see Caro?)
  • ACTOR 2: No, ¿por qué? (No, why?)
  • ACTOR 1: Tiene una mala cara…Yo creo que peleó con su novia. (She had such a long face…I think she argued with her girlfriend.)

IV. Tener razón (To be right)

One more, where tener is “to be” in English. Use it as in English, to point out whether someone is right or not.     

  • ACTOR 1: Tus padres tienen razón. Esto necesita orégano. (Your parents are right. This needs oregano.)  

V. Tener en cuenta (To take into account)

This expression is also used exactly as it is in English. Mostly for noticing or including more information into a decision or plan. 

  • ACTOR 1: Ten en cuenta el frío que hace en la montaña. Llévate el abrigo.  (Take into account how cold it is up the mountain. Take the coat.)  

VI. Tener lugar (To take place)

This is a more formal expression which is mostly used in written Spanish to refer to the moment an event occurs. It’s very common to see this in newspapers and news reports like:

  • ACTOR 1: La conferencia tiene lugar en Madrid, y aún se esperan declaraciones. (The conference takes place in Madrid, and statements are still awaited.)  

VII. Tener ganas de (To feel like)

This is used as an equivalent of querer (to want). You can use it in any situation and with anyone to talk about things you feel like or don’t feel like doing. 

  • ACTOR 1: Si no tienes ganas de salir, ¡no salgas! (If you don’t want to go out, don’t!) 

VIII. Te tengo (I have for you)

I don’t think this qualifies as an idiomatic expression, but it’s definitely a great chunk. I wanted to talk about it real quick, because of how common it is to hear it and how much of inside knowledge it’ll give you. Te tengo (I have for you) is the same as tengo (I have). But, if you say te tengo (I have for you) it emphasizes the idea. 

Another variation could be les tengo (I have for you all) to send the message to a group of people and not just one person. 

  • ACTOR 1: ¡Les tengo una noticia increíble! (I have incredible news for you!)

¡Genial! Ahora, para sacarle provecho a esto, tienes que consolidar conocimientos. Para ello, te tengo algo de tarea. (Great! Now, to get the most out of this, you have to consolidate knowledge. For that, I have some homework for you.)

Complete the following sentences with the right conjugation of the verb “tener”:

  • ¿Estas bien? ¿Por qué _______ mala cara? (Are you okay? Why the long face?)
  • Dale una chaqueta. _________ frío. (Give him a jacket. He is cold.)
  • ____ ganas de salir. (I feel like going out.)

If you leave your answers in the comments, I’ll make sure to check them!

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