24 Tener y venir (“to have” and “to come”)

Review of verbs:

Recall that “regular verbs” are classified into three types based on their endings: -ar, -er and -ir verbs. The term “regular verbs” is used in the sense that the majority of verbs in Spanish follow a specific conjugation pattern dealing with verb endings. The stems of regular verbs (tom-, com- and viv- in the examples below) stay the same for all conjugations of tomar, comer and vivir:

Infinitive Stem Ending
tomar: to take tom- -ar
comer: to eat com- -er
vivir: to live viv- -ir

The term “irregular verbs” simply means that the stem of the verb will also change for certain conjugations, while the verb ending still conjugates as expected.

Infinitive Stem Ending
tener: to have ten- -er
venir: to come ven- -ir


The verb “tener: to have” is one of the most common verbs in Spanish, used mainly to talk about things we possess and to explain what we have to do. “Tener” is also used in a number of idiomatic expressions in Spanish. Notice that the stem of “tener” (ten-) has an added “g” for the “yo” form: “tengo”. The “tú / Ud. / ellas” forms change their stem from “e to ie”. Yet the “nosotros y vosotros” conjugations have no stem change. However, the verb endings are the same that we have seen for regular -er ending verbs:

Tener: to have

Subject pronouns Singular Basic meaning Subject pronouns Plural Basic meaning
yo tengo I have nosotros/as tenemos we have
tienes you have vosotros/as tenéis you have (Sp.)
él tiene he has ellos tienen they have
ella tiene she has ellas tienen they have (f)
Ud. tiene you have Uds. tienen you have

1. Tener: used to express possession

Yo tengo cuatro clases. I have four classes.
¿Tiene Marisela una familia grande? Does Marisela have a big family?
¿Tienen Uds. amigos de México? Do you guys have friends from Mexico?
La universidad tiene un campus bonito. The university has a pretty campus.
¿Con quién tienes clases? Who do you have classes with?
No tenemos suficiente dinero. We don’t have enough money.

2. Tener: used to express obligation

Remember that when two verbs are used together with no change of subject, the first verb is conjugated (necesita / esperan below), but the second verbs are not (trabajar / viajar):

Mateo necesita trabajar. Mateo needs to work.
Ellos esperan viajar más. They hope to travel more.

Generally when using a two-verb structure, nothing separates the two verbs. However, when “tener” is used with a second verb (to express obligation: have to do something), the word “que” is inserted after “tener” and before the second verb. In this structure “que” has no literal meaning in English.

“tener que”

Structure Equivalent in English
tener + que + verb (inf.) has/have to do something

Tengo que trabajar mañana. I have to work tomorrow.
Tenemos que estudiar para el examen. We have to study for the test.
¿Por qué tienes que llegar temprano? Why do you have to arrive early?
Raúl tiene que comer al mediodía. Raúl has to eat at noon.

3. Tener: used in idiomatic expressions

In Spanish, there are a number of expressions used with the verb “tener” (to have) where in English the equivalents are expressed with the verb “to be”. So instead of saying “I am hungry”, in Spanish you say “I have hunger”, or “tengo hambre”. When it’s someone’s birthday we say in English “She’s 18 years old”, but in Spanish it sounds like “She has 18 years”, or “Ella tiene dieciocho años”.

The important thing to remember with these expressions is to use the verb “tener” even though you may already know that “ser/estar” mean “to be”. Also, in English one might say “we’re very hungry” before dinner, but with tener expressions, the word “mucho” (much) is used: the literal equivalent would be “we have much hunger”, or “tenemos mucha hambre”. The literal meanings might sound strange, but you’ll get used to using “tener” to express the following:

Expressions with tener

Expression Equivalent in English Literal meaning
tener (mucho) calor to be (very) hot to have (much) heat
tener (mucho) frío to be (very) cold to have (much) cold
tener (mucha) hambre to be (very) hungry to have (much) hunger
tener (mucha) sed to be (very) thirsty to have (much) thirst
tener (mucho) sueño to be (very) sleepy to have (much) sleep
tener (muchos) celos to be (very) jealous to have (much) jealousy
tener (mucha) prisa to be in a (big) hurry to have (much) hurry
tener (mucho) miedo de to be (very) afraid of to have (much) fear
tener razón to be right to have (much) right
tener (mucho) éxito to be (very) successful to have (much) success
tener (mucha) suerte to be (very) lucky to have (much) luck
tener (muchas) ganas de to (really) feel like to have (much) desire
tener # años to be # years old to have # years

OJO: Did you notice that for several of the expressions “mucho” ends in an “a” (mucha hambre) or “as” (muchas ganas)? That because the word “mucho” agrees in gender and number with the noun that follows.

¿Cómo se dice…?:

Now you try out some sentences: use the verb tener and the expressions from the list above to express the ideas below.

Some vocabulary you might need: muchos = lots; arañas = spiders

  1. Lorena has a big house.
  2. Diego and his friend have a lot of time.
  3. Do you have class on Monday? (tú)
  4. I don’t have to read the book.
  5. How many verbs do we have to learn?
  6. They are very cold.
  7. She’s ten years old.
  8. Are you guys afraid of spiders? (Uds.)


  1. Lorena tiene una casa grande.
  2. Diego y su amigo tienen mucho tiempo.
  3. ¿Tienes clase el lunes?
  4. No tengo que leer el libro.
  5. ¿Cuántos verbos tenemos que aprender?
  6. Ellos tienen mucho frío.
  7. Ella tiene diez años.
  8. ¿Tienen Uds. miedo de las arañas?


The verb “venir” means “to come” and it follows tener’s pattern for the changes in the stem, but since it’s an -ir ending verb, the “nosotros” and “vosotros” forms differ.

Venir: to come

Subject pronouns Singular Basic meaning Subject pronouns Plural Basic meaning
yo vengo I come nosotros/as venimos we come
vienes you come vosotros/as venís you come (Sp.)
él viene he comes ellos vienen they come
ella viene she comes ellas vienen they come (f)
Ud. viene you come Uds. vienen you come

Do you come to class every day? ¿Viene Ud. a clase cada día?
Ellos no vienen a la fiesta. They aren’t coming to the party.
Vengo a la universidad los martes. I come to the university on Tuesdays.
¿Cuándo viene Marta? When is Marta coming?

OJO: note these useful time references with venir and possible translations:

El lunes que viene Next Monday (the coming Monday)
La semana que viene Next week (the week that’s coming)
El año que viene Next year (the year coming up)


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First Year Spanish 1 by Paul Eckhardt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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