Expressing Obligation with Tener que + Infinitive
- Revising the Verb Tener
- Uses of Tener que + Infinitive
- Forming the Construction Tener que + Infinitive
Imagine you are invited to a party that you can't go to because you have other plans. How do you say this in Spanish?
The verb tener by itself has four main functions. It can be used to state your age as well as to express moods, physical descriptions, and possession. However, when accompanied by the relative pronoun que + an infinitive verb, it has the function of expressing obligation, necessity, or commitment.
Tengo que estudiar hoy en la tarde.
I have to study today in the afternoon.
Revising the Verb Tener
As mentioned, the verb tener by itself is used to:
Rule 1. State your age
Tengo 28 años y mi hermana tiene 23.
I am 28 years old and my sister is 23.
Rule 2. Indicate possession.
Mi mamá tiene 4 perros y dos gatos, le encantan los animales.
My mom has 4 dogs and two cats, she loves animals.
Rule 3. Express states or moods.
Ellos tienen hambre, yo tengo sed.
They are hungry, I am thirsty.
Rule 4. Finally, it can be used in physical descriptions.
Mi abuelita tiene los ojos verdes y mi papá los tiene azules.
My grandmother has green eyes and my father has blue eyes.
Rule 5. It is also important to remember that the verb tener is an irregular verb. Here is how it is conjugated.
|Subject pronouns||Verb tener in the present indicative||Uses|
|él, ella, usted||tiene||ojos negros|
|vosotros, vosotras||tenéis||cabello rubio|
|ellos, ellas, ustedes||tienen||23 años|
Uses of Tener que + Infinitive
And not that we are familiar with the common uses of the verb tener, let's discover how it works within the construction tender que + infinitive.
Rule 6. This construction is mainly used to express obligation.
No puedo ir a la fiesta, tengo que estudiar.
I can't go to the party, I have to study.
Rule 7. It is also used to express necessity.
Si me mudo a Amsterdam, me tendré que comprar una bicicleta para transportarme.
If I move to Amsterdam, I will have to buy a bicycle to move around.
Rule 8. And it is used for commitments.
No pude ir porque tenía que trabajar a esa hora.
I couldn't go because I had to work at that time.
As you can see in the examples, this construction can be used not just in the present, but also in other other tenses.
Here is a conjugation of the verb tener in the present, preterite, imperfect and simple future.
|él, ella, usted||tiene||tuvo||tenía||tendrá|
|ellos, ellas, ustedes||tienen||tuvieron||tenían||tendrán|
Forming the Construction Tener que + Infinitive
Rule 9. The structure of this construction is very simple. All you have to do is to conjugate the verb tener in the tense that you need, add the relative pronoun que, and add an verb in the infinitive form. Remember that infinitive verbs are those that have not yet been conjugated.
Here is an example with the sentence "I have to buy groceries."
|Tener que +||Verb in infinitive||Complement|
|Tengo que||comprar||la despensa.|
Rule 9. To make the sentence negative, simply add a negative word before the verb. Here is an example with the sentence "We didn't have to go to the party."
|Negative word||Tener que||Verb in infinitive||Complement|
|No||tuvimos que||ir||a la fiesta.|
Rule 10. To make an interrogative sentence (a question), simply add the interrogative pronoun or adverb (if necessary) or just the question marks. Here is an example with the sentence "What do we have to do as homework?"
|Interrogative word||Tener que||Verb in infinitive||Complement||Closing interrogative mark|
|¿Qué||teníamos que||hacer||para la tarea||?|
And look at another example without an interrogative word in the sentence "Do we have to go?"
|Opening question mark||Tener que||Verb in infinitive||Closing question mark|
So now, you should be able to tell the people who invited you to that party that you can't go because you have something else to do.
No puedo, tengo que estudiar para mi examen.
I can't, I have to study for my exam.
Now let's practice!
¿Qué _______________ (nosotros) comprar para la fiesta?