13 Medical Spanish Tener Expressions: When to use Have vs Be

Tener Expressions – 13 Things You ARE in English but HAVE in Medical Spanish Contexts

Be vs Have - 13 Tener Expressions in Spanish

This Free Medical Spanish lesson teaches you 13 Tener expressions, so that you know when to use HAVE in Spanish vs BE in English.

These 13 tener expressions are used in everyday spoken language. However, the problem is that sometimes we just translate them literally into Spanish and they don’t make any sense with a BE verb (Ser or Estar).

In this lesson you will learn how to use these tener expressions in past and present tenses. Additionally, you get some other phrases Spanish speakers usually use when talking 🙂

Remember, tener expressions are not really actions but descriptions. Consequently, you’ll notice that in the past tense we’re using the “description” past tense (the Imperfect).

Here is the Medical Spanish lesson about 13 tener expressions in Spanish I taught to the Facebook group:

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Download To Be in English but To Have in Spanish Notes TODAY

1. Talking Age in Spanish: Be # of years > Have # of years

Age is one of our tener expressions in Spanish, so you “have” age. Therefore, to answer the question “How old are/ is….?”, you must use “have” in Spanish:

Age in the Spanish present tense

Yo Tengo # años
Nosotros Tenemos # años
Tú Tienes # años
Vosotros Tenéis # años
Él, Ella, Usted Tiene # años
Ellos, Ellas, Ustedes Tienen # años

In the past tense

Yo Tenía # años
Nosotros Teníamos # años
Tú Tenías # años
Vosotros Teníais # años
Él, Ella, Usted Tenía # años
Ellos, Ellas, Ustedes Tenían # años

2. Hungry in Spanish > Have Hunger

Even when your stomach is empty (está vacío) because you are hungry, to be hungry is one of the tener expressions in Spanish. Therefore, you “have” hunger. Additionally, the question is: ¿Tienes hambre?

Hunger in the Spanish present tense:

Tengo hambre
Tenemos hambre
Tienes hambre
Tenéis hambre
Tiene hambre
Tienen hambre

Note: You can also say “estoy hambriento/a” to express you are hungry, however don’t say “soy hambriento/a”. If you do, you change the meaning, because “soy hambriento” means you are an overeater. Now you know if someone tells you “eres muy hambriento”, it means you might want to put on the brakes :).

In the past tense:

Tenía hambre
Teníamos hambre
Tenías hambre
Teníais hambre
Tenía hambre
Tenían hambre

3. Thirsty in Spanish > Have Thirst

Do you want to drink something? If so, probably tienes sed 🙂

Thirsty in the Spanish present tense

Tengo sed
Tenemos sed
Tienes sed
Tenéis sed
Tiene sed
Tienen sed

Thirsty in the past

Tenía sed
Teníamos sed
Tenías sed
Tenía sed
Tenían sed

“Estar sediento/a” is also an option, but it’s not so common in the spoken language.

4. Hot in Spanish > Have Heat

In Spanish to be hot goes to have heat, therefore don’t say “soy calor” because your name is not Calor or is it? ;). Additionally, never ask someone if “está caliente” to ask them if they’re hot. It doesn’t mean “hot”… it’s more like “horny” in Spanish.

Hot in the Spanish present tense

Tengo calor
Tenemos calor
Tienes calor
Tenéis calor
Tiene calor
Tienen calor

In the past tense

Tenía calor
Teníamos calor
Tenías calor
Teníais calor
Tenía calor
Tenían calor

Note: Remember there is a difference in the use of the word “hot” in Spanish, so pay close attention:

  • “Object” estar caliente = be hot
    • El café está caliente
    • El agua está caliente
  • However, “People” + estar caliente = be horny or be angry (in certain regions)

5. Cold in Spanish > Have Cold

Same case with frío as with “calor”, so you have to ask: ¿Tienes frío?

Cold in the Spanish present tense

Tengo frío
Tenemos frío
Tienes frío
Tenéis frío
Tiene frío
Tienen frío

In the past tense

Tenía frío
Teníamos frío
Tenías frío
Teníais frío
Tenía frío
Tenían frío

Additionally, in Spanish “be cold” could have at least three more meanings:

  • Ser frío/a : it means the person is insensitive or very serious, he/she doesn’t show any affection.
    • Él es muy frío con su esposa: he is very cold (insensitive) with his wife
  • Estar frío/a: the opposite to “estar caliente” referring to an object.
    • El agua está fría: the water is cold
  • Quedarse frío/a: To be so surprised you are unable to move or talk.
    • Ella se quedó fría al ver a su mejor amigo luego de 20 años: She went cold (very surprised and motionless) after seeing her best friend after 20 years.

6. Sleepy in Spanish > Have Sleepiness

Even though to be sleepy could be translated to “estar soñoliento/a”, in Spanish it’s better to use “tener sueño”.

Sleepy in the Spanish present tense

Tengo sueño
Tenemos sueño
Tienes sueño
Tenéis sueño
Tiene sueño
Tienen sueño

In the past

Tenía sueño
Teníamos sueño
Tenías sueño
Teníais sueño
Tenía sueño
Tenían sueño

In some regions, if you want to emphasize the idea of “tener sueño”, you can say:

  • Tener UN sueño: but emphasizing the UN when talking to express the idea of “mucho”.
    • Ayer tenía UN sueño en clase : Yesterday I was very sleepy during the class (If you don’t emphasize this pronunciation, you are literally saying “Yesterday I had a dream during the class”)
  • Also, Tener un sueñero: I’m not sure if the word “sueñero” exists but it is used in some regions and it means something like “a lot of sleep” 😉
    • Tengo un sueñero, quiero irme ya: I’m very sleepy, I want to go now

Download To Be in English but To Have in Spanish Notes TODAY

7. Lucky in Spanish > Have Luck

To be lucky could be translated to “ser afortunado/a”, but this expression is commonly used in a poetic / romantic /motivational way. Therefore, it’s more common to say “tener suerte”.

Lucky in the Spanish present tense

Tengo suerte
Tenemos suerte
Tienes suerte
Tenéis suerte
Tiene suerte
Tienen suerte

In the past

Tenía suerte
Teníamos suerte
Tenías suerte
Teníais suerte
Tenía suerte
Tenían suerte

Spanish is beautiful, but it’s sometimes complicated and you need to pay attention to the detail. I’m telling you this because in spoken Spanish, saying “Tengo UNA suerte” could mean to be very lucky or very unlucky, and the difference between the meanings will be in the emphasis and intonation that the speaker uses when talking.

8. Afraid in Spanish > Have Fear

To be afraid is also “estar atemorizado/a, but it’s better to say “tener miedo” 🙂

Afraid in the Spanish present tense

Tengo miedo
Tenemos miedo
Tienes miedo
Tenéis miedo
Tiene miedo
Tienen miedo

In the past

Tenía miedo
Teníamos miedo
Tenías miedo
Teníais miedo
Tenía miedo
Tenían miedo

Miedo is also a feeling that is given by something in Spanish, which you can express by saying: “Me da miedo…”

  • Me da miedo ir al médico / Tengo miedo de ir al médico. Both sentences mean “I’m afraid to go to the doctor.”
  • ¿No te da miedo viajar en avión? / ¿No tienes miedo de viajar en avión?: Are not you afraid of traveling by plane?

9. Be Right in Spanish > Have Reason

The question Who is right? in Spanish is: ¿Quién tiene razón?

To be right in the Spanish present tense

Tengo razón
Tenemos razón
Tienes razón
Tenéis razón
Tiene razón
Tienen razón

In the past tense

Tenía razón
Teníamos razón
Tenías razón
Teníais razón
Tenía razón
Tenían razón

Other ways to express “tener razón” are:

  • Estar en lo cierto: Literally to be in the right.
    • No me creyó aunque yo estaba en lo cierto: He / She did not believe me even though I was in the right
  • Llevar razón: Literally to carry the reason or the right.
    • Mi mamá se enoja conmigo por no comer bien y lleva razón. Which means: My mom gets mad at me for not eating well, and she’s right

10. Be Wrong in Spanish > Not Have Reason

“Who is wrong?” in Spanish: “¿Quién no tiene razón?”

To be wrong in the Spanish present tense

No tengo razón
No tenemos razón
No tienes razón
No tenéis razón
No tiene razón
No tienen razón

In the past tense

No tenía razón
No teníamos razón
No tenías razón
No teníais razón
No tenía razón
No tenían razón

Note: another way to say “to be wrong” is “estar equivocado/a”, which is actually pretty common.

  • Discúlpame por lo que dije, estaba equivocada: Excuse me for what I said, I was wrong
  • ¿Tengo razón o estoy equivocado?: Am I right or am I wrong?

11. Proud in Spanish > Have Pride

“¿Quién tiene orgullo?” in Spanish

Proud in Spanish present tense

Tengo orgullo
Tenemos orgullo
Tienes orgullo
Tenéis orgullo
Tiene orgullo
Tienen orgullo

In the past

Tenía orgullo
Teníamos orgullo
Tenías orgullo
Teníais orgullo
Tenía orgullo
Tenían orgullo

Alternatively, you can say you are proud of someone of something in Spanish: “Estar orgulloso de…” (of someone) or “Estar orgulloso por…” (about something).

  • Yo estoy muy orgulloso de mi hija: I am so proud of my daughter
  • OR – Estoy orgullosa por haberme graduado: I am proud of having graduated

On the other hand, if someone tells you “eres muy orgulloso/a”, it could mean you are very arrogant. But, again, it would depends on the emphasis the speaker uses when talking.

12. Be in a hurry in Spanish > Have … haste?

In Spanish, hurry is something you have, so “¿Tienes prisa?

In a hurry in Spanish present tense

Tengo prisaTenemos prisa
Tienes prisaTenéis prisa
Tiene prisaTienen prisa

In the past

Tenía prisaTeníamos prisa
Tenías prisaTeníais prisa
Tenía prisa Tenían prisa

Additionally, here are some more ways to say “to be in a hurry” in Spanish:

  • Tener apuro / Estar apurado/a
  • Also, Tener afán / Estar afanado/a
  • Estar apresurado/a is also an option, but it’s not so common in Spoken language.

13. Be careful in Spanish > Have care

To be careful in the Spanish present tense

Tengo cuidadoTenemos cuidado
Tienes cuidadoTenéis cuidado
Tiene cuidadoTienen cuidado

In the past

Tenía cuidadoTeníamos cuidado
Tenías cuidadoTeníais cuidado
Tenía cuidadoTenían cuidado

Are you ready for Spanish Immersion?

Registrations for our CME and CE Accredited Spanish Immersion programs in Costa Rica and Ecuador are wide open and we would love to have the opportunity to work with you.

These Spanish immersion trips are prefect if you are looking for a guaranteed experience, and if tiene miedo de traveling by yourself. Alternatively, if you just want to tener mucho cuidado and not worry about all the planning, then our immersion programs will fit your needs 🙂

I packaged all of this into easily downloadable .pdf notes– Get your copy for free today!

Download To Be in English but To Have in Spanish Notes TODAY

Keep up the good work speaking responsible Spanish to your patients!

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