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From Latin tenēre, present active infinitive of teneō (to hold, to have), from Proto-Italic *tenēō, stative from Proto-Indo-European *ten- (to stretch, draw).


  • IPA(key)/teˈneɾ/[t̪eˈneɾ]


tener (first-person singular present tengofirst-person singular preterite tuvepast participle tenido)

  1. (transitive, literally) to have, possess synonym ▲
    Ella tiene seis hermanos. ― She has six brothers.
    Tengo una pluma. ― I have a pen.
    Synonym: poseer
  2. (transitive) to have, possess, to be (a condition or quality)
    Usted tiene suerte. ― You are lucky. (literally, “You have luck.”)
    ¡Ten cuidado! ― Be careful! (literally, “Have care!”)
    ¿Quién tiene razón? ― Who is right? (literally, “Who has reason?”)
    Ese que ― Who is right?
  3. (transitive) to hold, grasp
    Ten esto. ― Hold this.
  4. (transitive) to contain, to hold (e.g. to “hold the power to”, “hold the key”, “hold a clue”, “hold the truth”, “have a hold on”, “hold in store”, “hold all the cards”, “hold in high regard”, etc.)
    Este tarro tiene las cenizas. ― This jar contains the ashes.
    El estadio es enorme. Puede tener una capacidad de hasta cien mil espectadores.

    The stadium is huge. It can hold up to one hundred thousand spectators.
    Solía pensar que ese libro tenía todas las respuestas.

    I used to think that book held all the answers.
  5. (transitive) to have, feel (internally)
    Él le tiene mucho cariño a ella. ― He has much admiration for her.
    Tengo frío. ― I feel cold.
    Tenemos hambre. ― We are hungry. (literally, “We have hunger.”)
  6. (transitive) to make to feel
    Eso nos tiene tristes. ― That makes us sad.
  7. (transitive) to have (a measure or age)
    Tiene tres metros de ancho. ― It is three metres wide. (literally, “It has three metres of width.”)
    Tengo veinte años. ― I am twenty years (old). (literally, “I have twenty years.”)
  8. (used with que) to have to
    Tengo que salir ahora. ― I have to leave now.
  9. to get (e.g. to get a minute, to get an idea, to get a chance, to get a concussion/bruise/headache, to get in an accident, to get a place, to get a view of, to get a meeting, to get a vision, etc.)
    Ese cadete necesita tenerlo bajo control. ― That cadet needs to get it under control.
  10. to keep, to bear (in certain phrases; e.g. to bear in mind, bear a resemblance, keep a journal/diary, keep around something or someone)
    Ten en cuenta que es más difícil de volver a subir al cañón que descenderlo.

    Keep in mind that it’s more difficult to go back up the canyon than to go down it.
    Pronto voy a comprobar sus billetes, así que ténganlos a manos.

    I will soon be checking your tickets, so keep them handy.
    Ella tuvo diez hijos, todos partos naturales. ― She bore ten children, all natural births.
  11. to make (in a few select phrases)
    Ahora todo tiene sentido. ― Now everything makes sense.
  12. (reflexive) to be taken (usually has deber for an auxiliary verb when used)

Usage notes

Tener does not use the personal “a”.

In the sense (to feel): tener is often used with nouns like calor (heat)frío (cold)hambre (hunger)sed (thirst), to indicate states; English would use adjectives instead

  • Tengo hambre ― I’m hungry (literally, “I have hunger”)
  • Tengo miedo ― I’m scared (literally, “I have fear”)

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