How to use TENGO in Spanish correctly? 12 amazing chunk examples

TENGO IN SPANISH: How to Use It Correctly ❓❓

If you’re learning Spanish you MUST have come across the word tengo before. Tengo in Spanish is a conjugated form of tener (to have). Read this article to find out how and when to use this word correctly! 

In today’s lesson, I will teach you 12 chunks that contain the word tengo, which translates into “I have”… but it has other equivalents in English and that’s why many Spanish learners find it confusing.

1. Learn Spanish chunks with TENGO

Alright, so, Spanish chunks with tengo! The first one is…

Hold on a second. What is a chunk?

Glad you asked! Chunks are fixed word combinations that native speakers use todo el tiempo (all the time) and if you learn them de memoria (by heart), they will roll off your tongue in conversations sin que tengas que preocuparte (without having to worry) about grammar rules all the time. 

So, as you’ll see today, if you learn entire word combinations with tengo by heart, you’ll be able to use the word correctly, just like native speakers do. No conjugations necessary!

Let me give you algunos ejemplos (some examples), then it’ll all become clear!

2. Tengo translation to English: I have

If we speak in grammatical terms, tengo is the conjugation of the verb tener (to have) in the present tense, in the first-person singular (that is, yo or I).

tengo in spanish female teacher explaining tener conjugation in present tense

With this in mind, tengo is simply the equivalent of “I have” and so you may use the following chunks to talk about: 

  • Ideas
    • Tengo una idea. (I have an idea.)
    • Tengo un presentimiento. (I have a premonition.)
  • Your family
    • Tengo dos hijos, pero no tengo ninguna hija. (I have two sons, but no daughters.)
    • Tengo un hermano. (I have only one brother.)
  • Activities: Mañana tengo examen. (I have an exam tomorrow.)
  • Symptoms or diseases
    • Tengo tos. (I have a cough.)
    • Tengo fiebre. (I have a fever.)
    • Tengo cáncer. (I have cancer.) 

So, these uses of tengo are very similar to those in English. As you can see, in both languages one may have ideas, children, siblings, and exams.

Now, what’s the easiest way to start using this correctly? Exactly… Learn the chunks (like tengo tos) by heart. NOT tengo un tos (which would be a literal translation from English), but tengo tos. That way, you’ll always use it correctly!

By the way, at Spring Spanish we have developed an innovative method based around the concept of chunks and how you can learn Spanish much faster with it. If you want to learn more, make you sure to sign up for the free Spanish chunking training, where you’ll get sample lessons straight from our academy.

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3. Tengo que translates to: I have to

There’s another use of tengo that has a very close equivalent in English: tengo que, which translates into “I have to”. Both chunks (tengo que and I have to) are used to talk about an obligation.

These are some examples in Spanish:

  • Tengo que ir al supermercado. (I have to go to the supermarket.)
  • Tengo que hacer ejercicio. (I have to work out.)
  • Tengo que tomar agua. (I have to drink water.)
  • Tengo que estudiar español. (I have to study Spanish.)

Now, unless you are going to a school where Spanish is a mandatory subject, aprender español no debe ser necesariamente una obligación (learning Spanish doesn’t really have to be an obligation). It can be an interesting, fun, and entertaining experience que puedes disfrutar (that you can enjoy) every step of the way… especially once you have achieved fluency.

4. Tengo in Spanish also means: I am

No me preguntes por qué (Don’t ask me why), but unlike English, in Spanish, you are not cold or hot, you are not scared, you are not hungry, and you are not an age. Instead, those are things you have. Therefore, you should use tengo

  • Tengo calor. (I’m hot.)

Warning: Never say “Estoy caliente” to say you are hot. If you do, people will run away from you because you are basically saying you are… horny.

  • Tengo frío. (I’m cold.) 

Don’t confuse it with “I have a cold”, which would be translated as Estoy resfriado or Tengo catarro. Remember that tengo is also used to talk about symptoms and diseases.

The easiest way to never get confused about this again? You guessed it: learn the whole chunk by heart! 

  • Tengo miedo. (I’m scared.)
  • Tengo hambre. (I’m hungry.)
  • Tengo sueño. (I’m sleepy.)
  • Yo tengo la razón. (I am right.)
  • Tengo la convicción de que lograrás aprender español con Spring Spanish. (I’m convinced you’ll learn Spanish with Spring Spanish.)

5. Tengo from Spanish to English is equivalent to: I want to

We’re almost done! 

There’s one last use of tengo that cannot be literally translated into English, instead, it’s better that you learn it by heart, as a chunk. In a moment I’ll summarize the 12 chunks I promised, pero antes (but before that) I’ll teach you how to use tengo ganas de. 

Ganas means desire or willingness to do something and this whole chunk (tengo ganas de) could be translated as either I am eager to, I want to, or I would like to. For example: 

  • Tengo ganas de viajar. (I would like to travel.)
  • Tengo ganas de verte. (I would like to see you.)
  • Tengo ganas de comer helado. (I want to eat ice cream.)

You may highlight or emphasize how eager you are to do something by adding muchas or to emphasize it even more: muchísimas

  • Tengo muchas ganas de viajar. (I so want to travel.)
  • Tengo muchísimas ganas de verte. (I really want to see you.)

6. Summary: 12 Chunk examples containing tengo


Here’s a summary of twelve chunks we went over today using the word tengo.

Remember: chunks are word combinations you may learn by heart to have them roll off your tongue in conversations without getting stuck in thinking about grammar rules.

tengo in spanish female teacher showing and explaining chunks with tengo
  1. Tengo una idea (I have an idea)
  2. Tengo hijos (I have kids) or No tengo hermanos (I have no siblings)
  3. Mañana tengo examen (I have an exam tomorrow)
  4. Tengo tos/fiebre/cáncer (I have a cough/fever/cancer)
  5. Tengo que + whatever it is you have to do
  6. Tengo frío/calor  (I’m cold/hot)
  7. Tengo hambre (I’m hungry)
  8. Tengo sueño (I’m sleepy)
  9. Tengo miedo (I’m scared)
  10. Yo tengo la razón (I am right.)
  11. Tengo la convicción de que (I’m convinced that)
  12. Tengo ganas de (I want to or I would like to)
tengo in spanish female teacher explaining tengo chunk examples

¡Muy bien! You are all set to use tengo properly. Try to learn these chunks by heart because they will never change.

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