1. Revising the Verb Tener
  2. Uses of Tener que + Infinitive
  3. 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 pronounsVerb tener in the present indicativeUses
yo tengo 28 años
tienes 2 perros
él, ella, usted tiene ojos negros
nosotros, nosotras tenemos hambre
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.

Subject pronounPresentPreteriteImperfectFuture
yo tengo tuve tenía tendré
tienes tuviste tenías tendrás
él, ella, usted tiene tuvo tenía tendrá
nosotros, nosotras tenemos tuvimos teníamos tendremos
vosotros, vosotras tenéis tuvisteis teníais tendréis
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.

Affirmative form

Here is an example with the sentence "I have to buy groceries."

Tener que +Verb in infinitiveComplement
Tengo que comprar la despensa.

Negative form

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 queVerb in infinitiveComplement
No tuvimos que ir a la fiesta.

Interrogative form

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 wordTener queVerb in infinitiveComplementClosing 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 markTener queVerb in infinitiveClosing question mark
¿ Tenemos que asistir ?

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?


correct answers.