SPANISH EXPRESSIONS WHICH USE “TENER” WHEN THE ENGLISH ONES USE “TO BE” Like if the difference between ser y estar both meaning to be was not enough, Spanish language has another thing that mess learners up, “TENER”-to have, yeah, I know what you are thinking right now, that is not that difficult…you are right it is not but…sometimes the verb “TENER “ in Spanish is not used in the same way that in English.

So to avoid mistakes or misunderstanding when talking with natives, I give you a cheat sheet with some of the expressions used with the verb “tener” instead with to be,  you might know some of them if you have been learning Spanish for a while, but probably they keep skipping from your brain as you are just to used to use them in English, so let’s have a look to these expressions and see some examples



Let’s start tehn with some Spanish expressions which use “tener” when the English ones use “to be” and what a better way than to start with the most common one!
















I know, I know…you know that, but…how many times have you used “soy 26 años” instead of “tengo 26 años”?

So yeah you are right, in Spanish we are not old, we have age, that is the why after tener+years.

So next time someone ask you “¿Cuántos años tienes?”-“How old are you?

Remember-“Tengo (your age) años”- nunca yo soy (your age)

Same when you are talking about someonelse’s age

Mi madre tiene 53 años


2-TENER FRÍO-to be cold















If you are somewhere like Scotland right now, and you are not wearing a jumper in Spanish “tendrás frío” while in English “you will be cold”.

#watch out in English you do use “to have A cold”, that in Spanish is “to be”-weird things of languages…”estar enfermo”

3-TENER CALOR-to be hot


If you are talking about your holidays in Spain, probably at some point you will say

“Fueron fenomenales pero tuvimos mucho calor, por las noches no podíamos dormir”, –“They were great but we were really hot, we could not sleep at night.”

Does it sound familiar? 😛


#remember for tener calor/frío if what you feel is quite intense you can put “mucho” in front

“tengo mucho calor” or “tengo mucho frío”

4-TENER RESACA, aka “to be hangover”















And let’s be honest who haven’t said this sentences before? One night out which you drank more than usual, and I bet it is common to hear you moaning next morning…when someone ask you how did your night go…

“Última vez,  no vuelvo a ver…tengo una resaca horrible”-“Las time, I am not drinking anymore, I am so hangover”,

And that is until your next night out and the following morning  when you will repeat it all over and over 🙂 , so this is a useful one 🙂


5-TENER SUERTE-“to be lucky”















Who hasn’t used this one, probably not talk about ourselves but a friend, who just did something

But let’s talk about us here…Imagine you start looking for a job and the first interview you go to, you get the job-how awesome would it be? You will be over the moon and instead of thinking you are good when people would say congratulations to you, you will probably keep saying

Muchas gracias, la verdad es que he tenido mucha suerte, todavía no me lo creo-“Thanks so much, to be honest I have been very lucky, I still can’t believe it”

6-TENER ÉXITO-“to be successful”















This one is a tricky one as I came across with a lot of people who use “ser éxito”, Watch out!-this is wrong if something or someone is successful in Spanish we say “tiene éxito”, we can use “to be” too but we need an adjective then, “ser exitoso”, but still…does not sound quite right..stay on the safe side and use “tener éxito”

If you listen to the radio, or if you are a bit more modern, to a podcast and they are maybe talking about someone with a lot of influence who just published a book and as became a best seller, a good way to introduce him would be

Hoy tenemos con nosotros a Pepito Pérez, su ultimo éxito ha sido un éxito y se ha convertido en uno de los más vendidos-“Today we have with us Pepito Perez, his last book has been a success and has become one of the best sellers”

I know…I could be a good podcast host 🙂

7-TENER SUEÑO-“to be sleepy”















Like when you are really tired after a whole week of work but still meeting your friends for one, and when you are leaving they all moan….What is wrong with you?Are you ok?Why are you leabing?It  is too early, you can always saying

-Nada, no me pasa nada, estoy cansada y tengo mucho sueño,solo quiero descansar-“ Nothing, I am ok, I am just tired and very sleepy, I just want to go to relax”-right?

#extra-in English is not that common (or at least I haven’t hear “to be sleepy” as much, most of the time people say they are tired) but in Spanish is quite a popular expressions, so make a note on your notebook 🙂

8-TENER PRISA-“to be in a hurry”















If you bump into someone you know into the street and even when you haven’t see each other for so long you can’t affort to stop as you are running late and your train is goinf to leave, you would apologizes saying

Lo siento pero tengo prisa, no puedo hablar o voy a perder mi tren-“I am sorry but I am in a hurry, I can’t talk or I will miss my train”

And that is all (for today) becasuse…I know…I know…there are a few more, but I did not want to overwhelm you with so many, so I just left you a few, but there will be a second round of Spanish expressions which used “tener” when the English ones use “to be”, so stay tune and watch this space.

At the moment this is it! It has ended up being a longer post than I thought

But we are not done yet…before we say adiós

Homework-yes! What would be with a post without an actionable, so come on, train your brain to be a more bilingual today and leave a comment below with one of the sentences above 🙂

Your turn-leave a comment below and let me know

-Did you know these sentences were used in Spanish with the ver “tener”?

-Have you used/heard them before?

-Have you got confused before trying to translate them or understand them?

Looking forward to reading all your comments.

I will talk to you soon-pronto


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