Haber/Tener – Verbs in Spanish Grammar

Introduction

The Spanish verbs haber and tener can be translated in most cases with have. We use the haber in impersonal sentences and as an auxiliary verb. In all other cases, we use the verb tener.

Learn the difference between haber and tener in Spanish grammar. Master the conjugation of these verbs in the four basic Spanish tenses and get tips on their correct usage. In the exercises, you can practise what you have learnt.

Conjugation of Spanish Verbs Haber and Tener

These tables show the conjugation of the verbs haber and tener in the four basic indicative tenses. When the verb haber is used in impersonal sentences, it is conjugated in the third person singular in all tenses: hay, ha habido, había, hubo, habrá.

haber

PresentePret. ImperfectoPret. IndefinidoFuturo
yo he había hube habré
has habías hubiste habrás
él ha había hubo habrá
nos. hemos habíamos hubimos habremos
vos. habéis habíais hubisteis habréis
ellos han habían hubieron habrán

tener

PresentePret. ImperfectoPret. IndefinidoFuturo
yo tengo tenía tuve tendré
tienes tenías tuviste tendrás
él tiene tenía tuvo tendrá
nos. tenemos teníamos tuvimos tendremos
vos. tenéis teníais tuvisteis tendréis
ellos tienen tenían tuvieron tendrán

Usage

haber

The Spanish verb haber is used in the following ways:

  • in the sense of there is/are, this is an impersonal form which is always conjugated in the third person singular
    Example:
    Aquí hay un sitio libre.Here there’s a free seat.
  • in the phrase hay + que + infinitive (impersonal form) in the sense of one must/ought to
    Example:
    Hay que hacer más deporte.One ought to play sports more often.
  • as an auxiliary verb with an invariable participle in compound tenses
    Example:
    Te he dicho que hagas los deberes antes.I told you that you ought to do your homework first.

    simply a neutral statement that something has already been said

    Hemos preparado las maletas.We have packed the suitcases.

    indicates that the action was carried out

tener

The Spanish verb tener is used in the following ways:

  • to indicate possession
    Example:
    Tengo un coche nuevo.I have a new car.
  • in the phrase tener + que + infinitive (personal form) in the sense of I must/you must/he must/…
    Example:
    Tienes que ir a la cama más temprano.You have to go to bed earlier.
  • as an auxiliary verb in compound tenses with a variable participle, to express more emphatically, stress the completion of an action
    Example:
    Te tengo dicho que hagas los deberes antes.I’ve told you a thousand times that you ought to do your homework first.

    more emphatic or annoyed (How many times have I got to say it?)

    Tenemos preparadas las maletas.Our suitcases are already packed./We have packed suitcases.

    emphasises that the packed suitcases are sitting there

  • to indicate age
    Example:
    Yo tengo quince años.I am 15 years old.