The Verb "Tener" in the Present Tense

  1. Conjugation of "tener"
  2. Usage of "Tener"

The verb "tener" (engl.: to have) is a very important verb in Spanish. On one hand, it is used to express possession, and on the other hand, with the extension "que," it can function as the modal verb "tener que" (engl.: to have to / must).



Yo tengo tiempo.

I have time.

Él tiene que limpiar la casa.

He has to clean the house.

Conjugation of "tener"

The verb "tener" is defined as irregular verb, because its first person singular is irregular (yo tengo). The rest of the conjugation behaves similarly to the er-conjugation (-o, -es, -e, -emos, -éis -en), just that there is a vowel change.

yo tengo
tú tienes
él / ella tiene
nosotros / nosotras tenemos
vosotros / vosotras tenéis
ellos / ellas tienen

The Verb with a Vowel Change

Rule 1: "Tener" is one of the Spanish verbs with diphtongation (vowel change). As you can see in the table, we need to change the first vowel "e" to an "ie" in most conjugations when we conjugate "tener" in the present tense.

Instead of "tú tenes," we conjugate "tú tienes." This vowel change occurs with some verbs in Spanish and applies to all persons except the first and third person plural.

We can see the vowel change by comparing "tener" to a regular verb of the -er conjugation.





tú bebes

tú tienes

Usage of "Tener"

Rule 2: In its simple form, the verb "tener" is used in the sense of "to have/possess something". This can be something material, like a house or a car, or something sensual, like time, hunger, or hope.



Yo tengo hambre.

I am hungry. (I have hunger).

Ella tiene hijos.

She has kids.

Nosotros tenemos vacaciones.

We have vacations.

The Construction "Tener que + Infinitive"

Rule 3: If you add the word "que" to the verb "tener," it can express an obligation with a following infinitive and thus acts as an equivalent to the modal verb "have to."



Tenemos que hablar.

We have to talk.

Tengo que salir a las 7 horas.

I have to leave at 7 a.m.

Difference from the Auxiliary Verb "Haber"

Rule 4: In English, we use the verb "to have" to express possession as well as an auxiliary verb in the perfect or pluperfect tense.

In Spanish, the verb "tener" can only be used to express possession or obligation (tener que + infinitive). To form the perfecto or pluscuamperfecto, the auxiliary verb "haber" (engl.: to have) is used.



I have worked.

Yo he trabajado.

The word "he" in the example represents the first person singular of the verb "haber". Instead of saying "yo tengo trabajado," you use the auxiliary verb "haber" to form the perfect.



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correct answers.