47 Common Tener Expressions in Spanish You MUST Know

The verb tener is one of the most basic verbs in Spanish. But did you know that there are many expressions with this verb that can help you express your ideas more effectively and naturally?

When learning Spanish, idiomatic expressions are a must if you’re serious about improving your conversational skills. So, in this article, you’ll learn the most common phrases with ‘tener’. To make this easier, I’ve divided these expressions into: 

You can certainly incorporate all these tener expressions into your vocabulary. Just ‘ten en cuenta’ (keep in mind) that some of these phrases may be more complex than others. 

Tip: Spanish idiomatic expressions don’t have literal translations. As a result, many of these tener expressions won’t be translated as ‘to have’.   

Spanish Tener Expressions for Beginners

graphic showing basic expressions with tener

Here are some starter tener phrases that beginners must know when learning Spanish

  • Tener… años To be… years old
  • Tener ganas To feel like
  • Tener tiempo To have time
  • Tener prisa To be in a hurry / To be in a rush
  • Tener cuidado To be careful
  • Tener razón To be right/correct
  • Tener sentido To make sense
  • Tener suerte To be lucky
  • Tener confianza To trust / To have confidence
  • Tener que…To have to

In Spanish, we use the formula tener + number + años to say someone’s age: 

[‘Tener’ conjugated] + [number] + años

Charlie tiene doce años
Charlie is twelve years old

tienes treinta años
You are thirty years old

Here are more examples of the remaining tener expressions. Notice that tener ganas can be used to talk about things or activities you feel like doing: 

¡Oigan, tengan cuidado!
Hey, be careful, guys!

Para mí esto no tiene sentido. 
To me this doesn’t make sense

Evelyn y Tony tienen ganas de ir al cine. 
Evelyn and Tony feel like going to the movies. 

Tener Phrases to Describe Feelings & Symptoms 

graphic showing common tener expressions to talk about feelings and symptoms in Spanish

In Spanish, many tener expressions are used to talk about a person’s feelings or symptoms. As you can imagine, these phrases are very useful when describing your physical or emotional state to others, going to the doctor, or other similar contexts. Most of these expressions with tener are translated as ‘to be’. 

  • Tener miedo To be afraid
  • Tener calor To be hot
  • Tener frío To be cold
  • Tener sed To be thirsty 
  • Tener flojera To feel lazy
  • Tener celos To be jealous 
  • Tener vergüenza To be embarrassed / To be ashamed 
  • Tener dolor de garganta To have a sore throat 
  • Tener dolor de cabeza To have a headache 
  • Tener dolor de estómago To have a stomach ache
  • Tener temperatura To have a fever  
  • Tener hambre To be hungry
  • Tener sueño To be sleepy

Here are some examples of how to use these expressions with ‘tener’:

Tenemos miedo de equivocarnos. 
We’re afraid of making a mistake. 

El bebé tuvo temperatura
The baby had a fever

¿Tienes un suéter que me prestes? Tengo mucho frío. 
Do you have a sweater that I can borrow? I am very cold. 

Take Note: Notice that one of the most common uses of tener is to talk about possessions.

Advanced ‘Tener’ Expressions

graphic showing advanced expressions with tener

Advanced idiomatic expressions with tener express more complex ideas. Although they’re still very common, you may not use them as often as the other expressions. This is because these phrases have more specific meanings. 

  • Tener claro To be sure about / To be clear on
  • Tener en mente To have in mind 
  • Tener lugar To take place
  • No tener ni pies ni cabeza To not make sense at all 
  • No tener estómago para Not have the guts to 
  • Tener tacto To be subtle 
  • Tener nada que ver con To have something to do with 
  • No tener vela en el entierro To have no business with
  • Tener en cuenta To keep in mind / To bear in mind
  • Tener a la mano To have on hand / To have around
  • Tener ángel To be charming
  • Tener la culpa To be one’s fault / To be to blame 
  • Tener cola que le pisen To have skeletons in someone’s closet
  • Tener gracia To be funny 
  • Tener la palabra To have the floor
  • Tener pinta de To look like / To have the appearance of
  • Tener el sartén por el mango To call the shots 
  • Tener entendido To understand
  • Tener agallas To have the guts
  • No tener abuela* To be full of yourself / To be arrogant / To be very good
  • Tener voz y voto To have a say
  • Tener el descaro To have the nerve
  • Tener en la punta de la lengua To have on the tip of your tongue
  • Tener la soga al cuello To be up to your neck
  • Tener a alguien comiendo de la palma de tu mano To have someone eating out of the palm of your hand. 

*Note: In Mexican slang, no tener abuela is also used to say something is very good. However, this meaning is only applicable to Mexican Spanish

Here are some sentences using these tener phrases in Spanish:

Ten tu pasaporte a la mano
Have your passport on hand

Estos tacos no tienen abuela
These tacos are very good

Carlos tuvo el descaro de venir a pedirme ayuda. 
Carlos had the nerve to come to ask me for help. 

Ustedes tuvieron la culpa de que perdiéramos el avión. 
It’s your fault that we lost the plane. 

Tengan en cuenta que el proyecto es para mañana.
Keep in mind that the project is due tomorrow.

Take Note: Tener is the direct translation of ‘to have’ in many contexts. However, we do not use ‘tener’ when forming perfect tenses, such as the present perfect. In this situation, we use the verb ‘haber’. If you have questions about these verbs, check my guide on the difference between haber and tener in Spanish

Next Steps with the Verb Tener

You’ve now learned a lot of new vocabulary and Spanish grammar structures using the verb tener. Now it’s time for you to apply these phrases to your conversations. If you need to practice the conjugations of ‘tener’, you can check out the conjugation guide or take this quiz. ¡Buena suerte!

Download the Spanish Expressions Using Tener PDF Cheat sheets

Learning all of these tener expressions will take time! Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or advanced speaker a list of this many phrases can be a lot to memorize. Feel free to download a copy of the PDF cheat sheets which include all 47 expressions!

Daniela Sanchez

¡Hola! Soy Daniela Sanchez, I've been studying Spanish professionally as well as teaching it in Mexico and online for over 10 years. I’ve taught Spanish to a wide array of foreigners from many backgrounds. Over the years, I've made it my mission to work hard on refining many challenging to understand grammar topics to make my students' learning experiences easier, faster and more enjoyable. Read More About Me

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