Tener, the Spanish verb to have

There are so many different ways to learn Spanish these days, that almost every learning type is supported, from joining a class, to reading books, watching videos, or downloading podcasts, and learning spanish online for free is becoming easier by the day as academies rush to provide sampler lessons to encourage students to join their programs.

I’m lucky to be living in Spain, and to organize intercambio sessions with Spaniards who are also learning English, but I know a lot of people I’ve met in Spanish forums who don’t live in a Spanish speaking country, and online intercambio just doesn’t have the same appeal for them.

The first step to learning Spanish has got to be coming to grips with some simple Spanish grammar exercises, knowing that each verb had multiple varieties depending on the context and who is being addressed.

Here’s a simple example, I have a cellphone; Yo tengo un movil. You have a cellphone; Tu tienes un movil. Notice how the verb changes, and it gets worse, the verb to have, is ‘tener’ in Spanish. Not only does the verb change for the person being addressed, it also changes for tense. If I wanted to say that I used to have a cellphone, I’d say Yo tenía un movil.

What I’m getting at is that English grammar is usually pretty straight forward. Our verbs only change slightly, perhaps we add an s to the end, lets forget about English irregular verbs for now, and we’ll conveniently ignore the fact that tener is a Spanish irregular verb, it doesn’t really affect this example, yet knowing how to use tener properly is incredibly useful.

Here is a breakdown of the verb tener;
Present tense
Yo tengo – I have
Tu tienes – you have
el/ella tiene – he/she has
nosotros tenemos – we have
vosotros tenéis – you (pl) have
ellos tienen – they have

Simple past tense
Yo tuve – I had
Tu tuviste – you had
el/ella tuvo – he/she had
nosotros tuvimos – we had
vosotros tuvisteis – you (pl) had
ells tuvieron – they had

Imperfect past tense
Yo tenía – I used to have
tu tenías – you used to have
el/ella tenía – he/she used to have
nosotros teníamos – we used to have
vosotros teníais – you (pl) used to have
ellos tenían – they used to have

Future tense
Yo tendré – I will have
tu Tendrás – you will have
el/ella tendrá – he/she will have
nosotros tendremos – we will have
vosotros tendréis – you (pl) will have
ellos tendrán – they will have

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