Haber/Tener – Verbs in Spanish Grammar

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What’s the difference between haber and tener?

The Spanish verbs haber and tener can be translated in most cases with have. We use haber in impersonal sentences and as an auxiliary verb for certain tenses. 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.

How to conjugate haber and tener

The tables below 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.


Presente Pret. Imperfecto Pret. Indefinido Futuro
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


Presente Pret. Imperfecto Pret. Indefinido Futuro
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

haber as an impersonal verb

The verb haber is used in impersonal sentences to mean there is/there are.

Hay cosas más importantes que hacer.There are more important things to do.
Había muchas personas.There were lots of people.

In this context, haber always appears in the third person singular.

  • present: hay
  • past: había, hubo
  • future: habrá
  • conditional: habría

When to use haber

We use the Spanish verb haber in the following cases:

  • to mean there is/are (always 3rd person singular)
    Aquí hay un sitio libre.Here, there’s a free seat.
  • to mean have to in a general sense: hay que + infinitive (always 3rd person singular)
    Hay que hacer más deporte.You have to do more sport.
  • as a help verb in different compound tenses
    Te he dicho que hagas los deberes antes.I told you that you ought to do your homework first.
    Hemos preparado las maletas.We have packed the suitcases.

When to use tener

We use tener is the following cases:

  • to indicate possession (have/have got)
Tengo un coche nuevo.I have a new car.
  • to mean have to: tener que + infinitive
Tienes que ir a la cama más temprano.You have to go to bed earlier.
  • to say how old you are
Yo tengo quince años.I am 15 years old.
  • with a participle to emphasise that something is already done/completed
    Te tengo dicho que hagas los deberes antes.I’ve told you a thousand times 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