Spanish Tener Idioms


An idiom is an expression that cannot be immediately understood by analyzing its literal meaning. There are many idiomatic expressions with tener.

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In our previous lesson we learned all about the verb TENER (Tener Module) and its special spelling rules. As a quick review, let’s take a look at its conjugation chart below:

 TENER = To have

Yo tengo – I haveNosotros(as) temenos – We have
Tú tienes – You (informal) haveVosotros(as) tenéis – You all have
Él tiene – He has Ella tiene – She has Usted tiene – You (formal) haveEllos tienen – They have Ellas tienen – They have Ustedes tienen – You all have

Now, how do we use tener with idioms…?

Today we’re going to dive deeper into the verb TENER by discussing its idioms. Tener Idioms are phrases that change the meaning of the verb TENER when paired together. When we use these idioms, we will conjugate the verb tener just as we would if it stood alone. Check out the list of common TENER IDIOMS below!

Tener _____ años = To be _____ years old. (Yo tengo 15 años = I am 15 years old) Tener + que + infinitive (unchanged form of a verb) = To have to (Tengo que trabajar = I have to work) Tener + ganas de + infinitive = To feel like ______ (Tienen ganas de nadar = They feel like swimming) Tener hambre = To be hungry (Tenemos hambre = We are hungry) Tener sed = To be thirsty (Ella tiene sed = She is thirsty) Tener prisa = To be in a hurry (Tenemos prisa = We are in a hurry) Tener calor/frío = To be hot/cold (En el Sur siempre tenemos calor = In the South we are always hot)

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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.

General Explanation:

Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.

Specific Capabilities at this Level

I can write a short, simple postcard, for example sending holiday greetings. I can fill in forms with personal details, for example entering my name, nationality and address on a hotel registration form.
Spoken Production:
I can use simple phrases and sentences to describe where I live and people I know.
Spoken Interaction:
I can interact in a simple way provided the other person is prepared to repeat or rephrase things at a slower rate of speech and help me formulate what I’m trying to say. I can ask and answer simple questions in areas of immediate need or on very familiar topics.
I can understand familiar names, words and very simple sentences, for example on notices and posters or in catalogues.
I can recognize familiar words and very basic phrases concerning myself, my family and immediate concrete surroundings when people speak slowly and clearly.