50+ Spanish Expressions With ‘Tener’
As a Spanish learner, you may have noticed that the verb tener doesn’t always mean “to have.”
- Tengo hambre.
- Tengo frío.
- No tiene abuela.
- Tiene mucho morro.
If you’re not sure what these Spanish expressions with tener mean, keep reading!
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If I say, “Hey, it’s raining cats and dogs!” What’s your reaction?
I guess you’re not looking at me like I’m crazy, but you understand that there’s heavy rain outside. Why?
Because you understand that what I’ve just said has a figurative—and not a literal—meaning.
The same thing happens in Spanish. There are plenty of idiomatic expressions that you can’t translate word by word. Instead, you have to learn what they mean as a whole.
Native speakers use idiomatic expressions a lot. If you want to jump on this level, it’s time you add them to your linguistic portfolio!
Read this article to learn more than 50 idiomatic expressions with tener!
Are you curious?
Let’s get started!
Table of Contents:
56 Spanish Expressions With Tener
1. Tener a alguien por algo
This expression means to consider, judge that somebody has a certain quality. You’ll usually use it with adjectives such as
- rich – rico/a
- poor – pobre
- wise – sabio/a
Se tiene por sabia.
She thinks she is wise.
If you want to increase your knowledge on adjectives, check out A Massive List of Adjectives in Spanish for Beginners.
2. Tener años
This is one of the first Spanish expressions with tener you learn. In Spanish, when you talk about age, you don’t use the verb “to be” but “to have”—tener.
¿Cuántos años tienes?
How old are you?
3. Tener que hacer algo
This expression shows the necessity or obligation to do something. You’ll use it with verbs in the infinitive form. It’s one of the most common Spanish expressions with tener.
No tienes que hacerlo por mí.
You don’t have to do it for me.
4. No tener donde caerse muerto
This expression means “to have no place to drop dead.” It simply means to be poor.
Ultimamente me va tan mal que no tengo ni donde caerme muerto.
Lately, I’ve been doing so badly that I don’t have a penny to my name.
5. Tener algo/mucho que perder, no tener nada que perder
It’s easy to guess the meaning of this expression with tener. It translates to “to have something/a lot to lose” or “to have nothing to lose.”
Me voy a mudar, no tengo nada que perder.
I’m moving, I have nothing to lose.
No puedo cambiar de trabajo ahora, tengo mucho que perder.
I can’t change jobs now, I have too much to lose.
6. Tener hambre
Tener hambre means to be hungry, and you use it in both formal and informal situations.
Tengo hambre. Vamos por unos tacos.
I’m hungry. Let’s go get some tacos.
7. Tener calor
Another common expression to use on a daily basis. It means to be hot.
Tengo calor. Abre la ventana.
I’m hot. Open the window.
8. Tener sueño
When you’re tired and want to go to bed, you can say tengo sueño. It means that you’re sleepy.
Ya es tarde, tengo sueño, vámonos a casa.
It’s late, I’m sleepy, let’s go home.
9. Tener sed
If you know how to say “I’m hungry” in Spanish, you’ll quickly learn how to say “I’m thirsty”. It’s the same structure—you have thirst in Spanish.
Tengo sed, ¿me pasas el agua, por favor?.
I’m thirsty, can you pass me the water, please?
10. Tener tos
Tener tos is to have a cough. If you go to a doctor and need to describe your symptoms, it can come in handy.
Doctor, tengo tos y me duele la cabeza.
Doctor, I have a cough and a headache.
11. Tener frío
Do you remember what tener calor means? Well, tener frío is just the opposite, you use it when you’re cold. Once again, although you use the verb “to be” in English, you’ll use tener in Spanish.
Tengo frío, tráeme un suéter.
I’m cold, bring me a sweater.
12. Tener fiebre
Another expression for your medical arsenal. Tener fiebre means to have a fever.
Tengo fiebre y no me siento bien.
I have a fever and I don’t feel well.
Recommended reading: Going to the Doctor in Spanish
13. Tener dolor
If something hurts, use the expression tener dolor. Just add the preposition de (of) and the part of your body that hurts you.
Tengo dolor de cabeza.
I have a headache.
14. Tener mala cara
The phrase tiene mala cara doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with their face, they just look pale and tired.
Tienes mala cara, ¿estás bien?
You look tired. Are you all right?
15. Tener miedo
You’ll use this expression to say that you’re afraid of something.
Tengo miedo de los alacranes.
I’m afraid of scorpions.
Tengo miedo de perderte.
I’m afraid of losing you.
16. Tener celos
Tener celos means to be jealous. The interesting thing is that both “jealous” and celoso/a in Spanish come from the same Latin word: “zelosus.”
No tengas celos, es simplemente un amigo.
Don’t be jealous, he’s just a friend.
17. Tener envidia
This expression means to be envious, to wish to have or experience what other people have.
Te tengo envidia, yo no he salido en años.
I’m envious of you; I haven’t been out in years.
18. Tener confianza en alguien / algo
Tener confianza means to trust in something or someone. It can also mean that you have hope that everything will go well.
Tengo confianza en que todo salga bien.
I am confident that everything will go well.
19. Tener / no tener vergüenza
Tener vergüenza means “to have shame” and no tener vergüenza means “to have no shame.”
Tengo vergüenza por lo que he hecho.
I am ashamed of what I have done.
20. Tenerle lástima a alguien
This expression means to feel pity or to be sorry for someone. Tener combines here with an indirect pronoun.
No me tengas lástima, estaré bien como siempre.
Don’t feel pity for me; I’ll be fine as always.
21. Tener pensado algo
Tener pensado algo means to have something planned or to have something in mind. You can also place an infinitive afterwards.
¿Qué tienes pensado para el fin de semana?
What do you have in mind for the weekend?
22. Tener cuidado
Tener cuidado means to be careful. It’s a simple expression that does not require any other skills than knowing how to conjugate the verb tener.
Ten cuidado con lo que dices.
Be careful what you say.
23. Tener prisa
Tener prisa means to be in a hurry.
No tenemos prisa, podemos quedarnos a comer.
We are not in a hurry; we can stay for lunch.
24. Tener éxito
Everybody wants tener éxito, as it means to be successful.
Los niños que leen mucho tienen más éxito en la escuela.
Children who read a lot are more successful in school.
25. Tener nervios de acero
This expression means “to have nerves of steel” or to be brave.
Hay que tener nervios de acero para poder competir a nivel mundial.
You must have nerves of steel to be able to compete at the world level.
26. Tener razón
When somebody is right, you say tienes razón in Spanish. When somebody is wrong, you say no tienes razón.
Me gusta tener razón.
I like to be right.
27. Tener la culpa
Tener la culpa means to be guilty. You can use it with the preposition de.
Los coches tienen la culpa de tanta contaminación.
Cars are to blame for so much pollution.
28. Tener suerte
Tener suerte means to be lucky. This expression also goes with preposition de.
Tengo suerte de haberte conocido.
I’m lucky to have met you.
29. Tener algo/alguien en cuenta
This expression means to be aware of something or to keep something in mind. When we use it with people, it may also mean that you consider them for a certain role or position.
Ten en cuenta que no estás solo aquí.
Keep in mind that you are not alone here.
Te tendré en cuenta cuando elija mi equipo.
I will keep you in mind when I choose my team.
30. Tener lugar
Tener lugar means “to take place” or “to have space”.
Las competencias tuvieron lugar en verano.
The competitions took place in the summer.
No tengo lugar en el coche para una persona más.
I don’t have room in the car for one more person.
31. Tener lo suyo
This expression may be tricky to translate. You may use it to say that something or someone has something special or there’s something unique about them.
Este libro no es para cualquiera pero tiene lo suyo.
This book is not for everyone but there’s something interesting about it.
Al principio no me gustaba este plato pero ahora tengo que admitir que tiene lo suyo.
At first, I didn’t like this dish, but now I have to admit that there’s something about it.
32. Tener sentido
If something in Spanish tiene sentido, it makes sense and is logical.
Tiene sentido lo que dices.
What you say makes sense.
33. Tener que ver con algo/alguien
This expression means to have something to do with someone or something, to be involved. You also use it in negative sentences.
Su comportamiento no tiene nada que ver contigo.
His behavior has nothing to do with you.
No quiere tener nada que ver conmigo.
He wants nothing to do with me.
34. Tenerlo difícil / fácil
Tenerlo difícil means that something is hard for you. And tenerlo fácil means the opposite.
Lo admito, sin dinero lo tienes difícil.
I admit, without money, you have a hard time.
Con todo lo que le dan sus padres, lo tiene fácil.
With everything his parents give him, he has it easy.
35. Tenerle cariño a alguien
Tenerle cariño a alguien means that you feel affection for somebody. It means the same as sentir cariño por alguien but comes with a different preposition.
Le tengo cariño a ese niño.
I am fond of that child.
36. Tener un día bueno/malo
These expressions mean to have a good or bad day. Remember that if you put bueno in front of día, it is shortened to buen. The same happens with mal/malo.
See also: Bien vs Bueno: How Good is Your Spanish?
Hoy no tienes muy buen día, te pasa de todo.
Today you’re not having a very good day, everything happens to you.
Hoy he tenido un mal día.
Today I had a bad day.
37. Tener ganas de algo
This expression means to feel like something or like doing something. Use it to talk about your cravings!
Tengo ganas de un helado.
I have a craving for ice cream.
Tengo ganas de no hacer nada.
I feel like doing nothing.
38. No tener abuela
You’ll use this expression when you think that somebody boasts too much about themselves, and has themselves in high esteem.
Juan no tiene abuela. Todo el tiempo habla de lo bueno que es para todos.
Juan is full of himself. All the time he talks about how good he is at everything.
39. No tener nombre
You’ll use this one when something you’re talking about is so bad that you have no words for it.
Lo que has hecho no tiene nombre.
What you have done is so bad, I have no words for it.
40. No tener ni pies ni cabeza
This expression means the same as no tener sentido. You use it when there’s no logic in something.
Tu ensayo no tiene ni pies ni cabeza. Tendrás que escribirlo otra vez.
Your essay makes no sense. You’ll have to write it again.
41. No tener ni para pipas
Do you remember the expression no tener ni donde carse muerto? This one means the same—to be broke.
Después de que su negocio quebrara no tiene ni para pipas.
After his business went bankrupt, he’s completely broke.
42. No tener pelos en la lengua
This expression means “not to mince one’s words.”
Yo se lo digo, yo no tengo pelos en la lengua.
I’ll tell him; I don’t mince words.
43. No tener ni un pelo de tonto
No tener ni un pelo de tonto means that somebody is intelligent although they don’t look so.
Cuidadito con él, no tiene ni un pelo de tonto.
Be careful with him, he’s not a fool.
44. No tener vuelta de hoja
You’ll use this expression when there’s nothing else to be done. It literally means that there are no pages left to be turned.
Ya firmé los papeles. Ya no hay vuelta de hoja.
I have already signed the documents. There’s no turning back now.
45. No tener oficio ni beneficio
If you use this expression to describe somebody, you’ll say that this person is lazy, doesn’t want to work, and does nothing useful.
Ellos no tienen oficio ni beneficio, nunca hacen nada productivo.
They’re good for nothing, never do anything productive.
46. Tener idea / no tener ni idea
You use this expression to show that somebody knows something or has absolutely no idea.
Ella tiene mucha idea, lo puede hacer sola.
She knows a lot, she can do it on her own.
47. Tener la sartén por el mango
This expression literally means to have the frying pen by the handle, but it means to have the upper hand. In Latin Américan Spanish, sartén is a masculine noun.
Ahora yo tengo el sartén por el mango.
Now, I have the upper hand.
The following three expressions also describe somebody who is daring and shameless.
48. Tener mucho morro
Literally it means to have a big nose or snout, but now you know it means to be daring.
Tiene mucho morro de venir aquí.
He has a lot of nerve coming here.
49. Tener un morro que se lo pisa
Just imagine what it literally means—to have such a big snout that you step on it.
De verdad, tienes un morro que te lo pisas.
Really, you’re a cheeky devil.
50. Tener más cara que la espalda
Literally, to have more face than back; figuratively, the same as the previous expressions: to be very, very cheeky.
Ese chico tiene más cara que la espalda.
This boy is as bold as brass.
I’ve also heard tiene más cara que un elefante con paperas. That literally means to have more face than an elephant with mumps.
51. Tener enchufe(s)
This expression means to have connections.
Dicen que su papá tiene enchufes en el gobierno.
They say that his dad has connections in the government.
52. No tener casa ni hogar
This is an idiomatic expression that means to be homeless. It uses an interesting distinction between casa (house) and hogar (home).
Desde que terminó la universidad no tiene casa ni hogar, da pena.
Since he finished college, he has been homeless, it’s a shame.
53. No tener corazón
This expression means exactly the same as the English one, “to have no heart,” meaning to be a heartless person.
Debes no tener corazón para poder haber dicho aquello.
You must be heartless to have said that.
54. No tener corazón para hacer algo
Although this expression looks similar to the previous one, it means something else and has nothing to do with being heartless. It means to have no heart to do something.
No tengo corazón para decirle que me voy a mudar del país.
I don’t have the heart to tell him that I’m moving out of the country.
55. No tener dos dedos de frente
This informal expression means that someone is not intelligent, to put it mildly. The best translation would be “to be as thick as two short planks.”
Si hubieras tenido dos dedos de frente, no te habrías metido en esto.
If you had any sense at all, you wouldn’t have got into this mess.
56. No tener gollete
This is an expression that you’ll hear in Argentina and Uruguay, and it means to make no sense or to be too much.
Lo que estás diciendo no tiene gollete.
What you’re saying makes no sense at all.
Start using Spanish Expressions with Tener in a Conversation
Congratulations! You’re almost an expert on using tener in idiomatic expressions. Now it’s time to study by using these expressions in writing and speaking. Only then you can aim at being bilingual.
Knowing two languages has undeniable benefits. Speaking Spanish can significantly expand your social circle. According to CNN, there are 41 million native Spanish speakers in the U.S. who speak Spanish in their homes. You don’t have to even leave the country to gain new friends.
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