The verb TENER which means “to have” in most cases, is an irregular verb, it´s one of the most common verbs in Spanish. We use this verb very often, for example to talk about age, physical sensations, possession or also to describe the physique of people.

In this post I want to explain you in detail how to use the verb “tener” with the conjugation in the present and the past, as well as the 4 uses of this verb with some examples

You will also find exercises at the end of the page to practice the conjugation and the uses of the verb TENER so that you know how to use this verb in Spanish sentences correctly!

Forms of the verb TENER in Spanish

Let’s start by conjugating the verb “tener” in the present and the past tense. As it is an irregular verb, it has many variations in its verb forms both in the present and the past

How to conjugate the verb TENER in Present Tense


tener conjugation chart

Irregular forms are marked in orange to differentiate them from regular verb forms of tener

As you can see in this chart of conjugation of the present verb “TENER”, the verb forms “nosotros tenemos” and “vosotros tenéis” are regular, it means that they maintain the main root of the verb (TEN) and they are conjugated using the proper endings of verbs ending in -ER (emos, eis).

However, the verb form “tengo” also maintains the main root (TEN) but an irregular ending (go) is added. That is why this form is irregular since otherwise it would be (teno)

This is a general rule for all irregular verbs in Spanish grammar: “The verb forms corresponding to “nosotros and vosotros” are always regular in all irregular verbs”

How to conjugate the verb TENER in Past Tense

tener preterite conjugation
In Spanish we use the verb tener with “Pretérito Perfecto” to talk about actions that occur in an unfinished period of time. “Hoy he tenido un buen día” (today has not finished”)

We use the “Indefinido” to talk about actions that occurred at a specific moment in the past and we are no longer within this period “Ayer tuve un mal día”

And we use the “Imperfecto” to refer to routines and actions that are repeated in the past, and also to make descriptions of people or things (Mi casa tenía una cocina muy grande)

4 uses of the verb TENER in Spanish

It is very important to know the different uses of the verb “tener” since some of them do not correspond to English and therefore it will help you avoid making interference errors with English grammar.

  1. POSESIÓN (possession) ¿Qué tienes? ¿What do you have?
  • Tengo un coche rojo (I have a red car)
  • Tengo unos vaqueros azules (I have a blue jeans)
  • Marta y yo tenemos una casa en Barcelona (Marta and I have a house in Barcelona)

2 – EDAD (age) ¿Cuántos años tienes? ¿How old are you?

  • Penélope Cruz tiene 47 años (She is 47 yeras old)
  • Yo tengo 34 años (I am 34 years old)
  • Sofía y Lucía tienen 25 años (They are 25 yards old)


  • Tengo calor (I am hot)
  • ¿Tienes frío? (¿Are you cold?)
  • Nosotros tenemos miedo (We are afraid)
  • Alberto tiene sed (Alberto is thristy)
  • Tengo resaca (I am hangover)

4 – DESCRIPCIÓN FÍSICA (physical description)

  • Yo tengo el pelo moreno y tengo los ojos negros (I have dark hair and I have black eyes)
  • Marta tiene la boca grande y la nariz pequeña (Marta has a big mouth and a small nose)

If you want to learn more about the verb “tener” in Spanish you can access the lesson of my Basic Spanish Platfom

In this lesson you can watch a VIDEO CLASS with visual and clear explanations, download a PDF INFOGRAPHIC with visual examples and practice with more INTERACTIVE ACTIVITIES!


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