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
TĂș 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
TĂș TenĂ­as # años
Vosotros Teníais # años
Él, Ella, Usted TenĂ­a # años
Ellos, Ellas, Ustedes Tenían # años

2. Hungry in Spanish > Have Hunger

Even when your stomach is empty (estĂĄ vacĂ­o) because you are hungry, to be hungry is one of the tener expressions in Spanish. Therefore, you “have” hunger. Additionally, the question is: ÂżTienes 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:

TenĂ­a hambre
TenĂ­amos hambre
TenĂ­as hambre
TenĂ­ais hambre
TenĂ­a hambre
TenĂ­an 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

TenĂ­a sed
TenĂ­amos sed
TenĂ­as sed
TenĂ­ais
TenĂ­a sed
TenĂ­an 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 “estĂĄ 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

TenĂ­a calor
TenĂ­amos calor
TenĂ­as calor
TenĂ­ais calor
TenĂ­a calor
TenĂ­an 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 cafĂ© estĂĄ caliente
    • El agua estĂĄ caliente
  • However, “People” + estar caliente = be horny or be angry (in certain regions)

5. Cold in Spanish > Have Cold

Same case with frĂ­o as with “calor”, so you have to ask: ÂżTienes frĂ­o?

Cold in the Spanish present tense

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

In the past tense

TenĂ­a frĂ­o
TenĂ­amos frĂ­o
TenĂ­as frĂ­o
TenĂ­ais frĂ­o
TenĂ­a frĂ­o
TenĂ­an frĂ­o

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

  • Ser frĂ­o/a : it means the person is insensitive or very serious, he/she doesn’t show any affection.
    • Él es muy frĂ­o con su esposa: he is very cold (insensitive) with his wife
  • Estar frĂ­o/a: the opposite to “estar caliente” referring to an object.
    • El agua estĂĄ frĂ­a: the water is cold
  • Quedarse frĂ­o/a: To be so surprised you are unable to move or talk.
    • Ella se quedĂł frĂ­a 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 tenĂ­a 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

TenĂ­a suerte
TenĂ­amos suerte
TenĂ­as suerte
TenĂ­ais suerte
TenĂ­a suerte
TenĂ­an 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

TenĂ­a miedo
TenĂ­amos miedo
TenĂ­as miedo
TenĂ­ais miedo
TenĂ­a miedo
TenĂ­an 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 mĂ©dico / Tengo miedo de ir al mĂ©dico. Both sentences mean “I’m afraid to go to the doctor.”
  • ÂżNo te da miedo viajar en aviĂłn? / ÂżNo tienes miedo de viajar en aviĂłn?: 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 razĂłn
Tenemos razĂłn
Tienes razĂłn
Tenéis razón
Tiene razĂłn
Tienen razĂłn

In the past tense

TenĂ­a razĂłn
TenĂ­amos razĂłn
TenĂ­as razĂłn
TenĂ­ais razĂłn
TenĂ­a razĂłn
TenĂ­an razĂłn

Other ways to express “tener razĂłn” are:

  • Estar en lo cierto: Literally to be in the right.
    • No me creyĂł aunque yo estaba en lo cierto: He / She did not believe me even though I was in the right
  • Llevar razĂłn: Literally to carry the reason or the right.
    • Mi mamĂĄ se enoja conmigo por no comer bien y lleva razĂłn. 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: “ÂżQuiĂ©n no tiene razĂłn?”

To be wrong in the Spanish present tense

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

In the past tense

No tenĂ­a razĂłn
No tenĂ­amos razĂłn
No tenĂ­as razĂłn
No tenĂ­ais razĂłn
No tenĂ­a razĂłn
No tenĂ­an razĂłn

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

  • DiscĂșlpame por lo que dije, estaba equivocada: Excuse me for what I said, I was wrong
  • ÂżTengo razĂłn o estoy equivocado?: Am I right or am I wrong?

11. Proud in Spanish > Have Pride

“ÂżQuiĂ©n tiene orgullo?” in Spanish

Proud in Spanish present tense

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

In the past

TenĂ­a orgullo
TenĂ­amos orgullo
TenĂ­as orgullo
TenĂ­ais orgullo
TenĂ­a orgullo
TenĂ­an 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 “ÂżTienes prisa?

In a hurry in Spanish present tense

Tengo prisaTenemos prisa
Tienes prisaTenéis prisa
Tiene prisaTienen prisa

In the past

TenĂ­a prisaTenĂ­amos prisa
TenĂ­as prisaTenĂ­ais prisa
TenĂ­a prisa TenĂ­an prisa

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

  • Tener apuro / Estar apurado/a
  • Also, Tener afĂĄn / 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

TenĂ­a cuidadoTenĂ­amos cuidado
TenĂ­as cuidadoTenĂ­ais cuidado
TenĂ­a cuidadoTenĂ­an cuidado

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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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