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Week 4 Day 4: “Hay que” and “Tener que”

What’s in store for you today: Tener que and Hay que, and expressions with “tener.”

Today’s goals are:

●     To learn the expressions “tener que” and “hay que”

●     To learn expressions with “tener”

Listen to Track 4.4.1


Juan: Hola, María. ¿Cómo estás hoy? (Hello, María. How are you today?)

María: Estoy muy ocupada. (I am very busy.)

Juan: ¿Por qué? (Why?)

María: Tengo que hacer muchas cosas. Tengo que ir a la biblioteca para devolver un libro. Necesito ir a la casa de mi abuela, y tengo que hablar con un contable. También, tengo que ir al supermercado para comprar comida. (I have a lot of things to do. I have to go to the library to return a book. I need to go to my grandma’s house, and I have to talk with an accountant. Also, I need to go to the grocery store to buy food.)

Juan: ¿Algo más? (Anything else?)

María: Bueno, hay que comer. Así que, en algún momento, tengo que cocinar. (Well, one must eat. So, at some point, I have to cook.)

Juan: ¿Quieres comer conmigo? Podemos ir a un restaurante. (Do you want to eat with me? We can go to a restaurant.)

María: Sí. Muchas gracias. ¡Así, no tengo que hacer la comida! (Yes! Thank you very much. That way I won’t have to make food!)


Talking about Obligation

We all have obligations – things we have to do. Well, today, we’re going to look at how to talk about those things in Spanish.

First things first, you have two options for talking about obligation:

  • Hay que
  • Tener que

“Hay que…”

Listen to Track 4.4.2


The expression hay que is used to talk about general obligations. Think of it like saying “one must.” For example: hay que estudiar mucho (one must study a lot). We could use it to say things like, hay que limpiar la cocina (one must clean the kitchen), or hay que trabajar mucho (one must work a lot).

We use this expression when we want to make a general statement. It can also add a little bit of emphasis to your statement.

  • Si quieres aprender español, hay que estudiar cada día (If you want to learn Spanish, one must study every day).

Rules to remember

  • When using hay que, the verb that follows the expression will always be in the infinitive.
  • Hay que estudiar (one must study); hay que leer (one must read); hay que pensar (one must think); hay que seguir (one must continue).

“Tener que…”

The expression tener que is a more personal form of expressing obligation than its counterpart we just discussed. It means “to have to” and can be conjugated to fit different subjects. Yo tengo que estudiar (I have to study). Nosotros tenemos que salir (we have to go out). Ellos tiene que comer (They have to eat).

Rules to Remember

  • Like with hay que, tener que will require an infinitive to come after it.
  • Don’t forget to conjugate “tener” to the subject (I, you, he, etc.).
  • Tienes que abrir la puerta. (You have to open the door). Vosotros tenéis que ayudar. (You – familiar, plural – have to help.) ¡Tenemos que ganar! (We have to win!)


Expressions with tener

Listen to Track 4.4.5


The verb tener is very useful, for obvious reasons. But you’ll find that in Spanish, it’s used in situations in which you wouldn’t find it in English. For example, we might say “I am cold.” But in Spanish, they’ll say tengo frío (I have cold).

Below, you’ll find a list of common expressions using tener:

  • Tener calor (To be hot)
  • Tener frío (To be cold)
  • Tener hambre (To be hungry)
  • Tener sed (To be thirsty)
  • Tener sueño (To be sleepy)
  • Tener miedo (To be afraid)
  • Tener prisa (To be in a hurry)
  • Tener ganas de (To feel like)
  • Tener X años (To be X years old)


Today, we talked about using hay que and tener que to express obligation:

  • Hay que is used with general statements.
  • Tener que is more personal.
  • Both will be followed by an infinitive.

We also talked about expressions using tener:

  • Tener calor (To be hot)
  • Tener frío (To be cold)
  • Tener hambre (To be hungry)
  • Tener sed (To be thirsty)
  • Tener sueño (To be sleepy)
  • Tener miedo (To be afraid)
  • Tener prisa (To be in a hurry)
  • Tener ganas de (To feel like)
  • Tener X años (To be X years old)