This is lesson 12 in Crashed Culture’s Spanish grammar series.
Hay que & tener que
Hay que & tener que are very similar words and phrases. In some ways they’re exactly the same, and in others they’re completely different.
Either way, this whole subject can be a real sore spot for Spanish language learners, so let’s get a solid understanding of haber, tener, and the phrases that come with ’em.
Haber vs Tener
Let’s step back for a sec and get a general idea of the infinitive forms of these words. Both tener and haber mean “to have”. The difference between haber and tener is easy – use “tener” for statements like “I have a job” and “haber” for statements like “I have thought about that before” – but conjugating them can get a little weird.
Let’s start with the forms of tener. Tener is one of the most commonly used verbs in the Spanish language, so it’s real important you get a hang of it. Once you’re done reading, download the flashcards with this lesson for practice.
|Yo||tengo una mazana|
|Tú||tienes una manzana|
|Él, ella, usted||tiene una manzana|
|Nosotros/as||tenemos una manzana|
|Vosotros/as||tenéis una manzana|
|Ellos, ellas, ustedes||tienen una manzana|
By the way, the flashcards are a bit more interesting than “I have an apple” – we’re just using that example across the board for simplicity!
Also, remember in the lesson about conjugating verbs when we talked about dropping the subject pronoun (yo, tú, etc.) because it’s just not necessary sometimes? This is a great example.
Once you get comfortable with conjugating tener, tener que is a walk in the park, ’cause all we’re doing is adding “que” to the mix. Once we do this, “tener” goes from “to have” to “to have to”.
|Yo||tengo que salir|
|Tú||tienes que salir|
|Él, ella, usted||tiene que salir|
|Nosotros/as||tenemos que salir|
|Vosotros/as||tenéis que salir|
|Ellos, ellas, ustedes||tienen que salir|
In these examples, everybody has to go out – think of ‘que’ as ‘to’ and you’re all set. I told you, easy!
Also note that, like we talked about in that same lesson about conjugating verbs, the second verb (salir) isn’t conjugated – it stays in its infinitive form. If you think about it in English (to go out), it’s the same thing.
I know a lot of Spanish language learners see this word and freak out, so I want you to get used to it now. Itś not nearly as scary as it seems. Promise. Now, haber is a pretty important part of more intermediate/advanced concepts, but we don’t need to be thinking about that just yet.
As far as you’re concerned at this point, there are only two uses of the verb haber: hay and hay que.
That first one, hay, is real easy – it just means “there is” or “there are”. For example:
Hay muchas manzanas (There are many apples)
Hay uno más manzana (There is one more apple)
¿Hay más manzanas? (Are there more apples?)
¿Hay una manzana aquí? (Is there an apple here?)
Here we can see that Spanish uses “hay” to simplify there is/there are/are there/is there – we condense all four of these different placements and conjugations into one very simple “hay”. Thank you, Spanish language!
Tip: Just like in English, you need the indirect object pronoun (un/una) when talking about a singular object, but not when talking about plural objects. For example:
Hay una manzana (There is an apple)
Hay manzanas (There are apples)
Last, but certainly not least, we have “hay que”. “Hay que” is exactly the same as “tener que” with one little difference: instead of “he/she has to”, we’re saying “one must”. Let me show you.
Hay que salir (One must go out)
And that’s it. Yes, seriously. It’s one very simple phrase consisting of only two words that don’t even need to be conjugated.
Hay que & tener que: a summary
And there you have it! These concepts are significantly easier to conquer than it seems. Just remember to feel confident in this and don’t be afraid of haber! It’s a scary word that is always easier than people like to think!
- Tener: to have
- Tener que: to have to
- Haber (hay): there is/there are
- Hay que: one must
Ready to move on?
Check out the next lesson: expressions of tener & hacer