Tener que + infinitive in Spanish Made Easier

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How to Conjugate Tener que + infinitive

To talk about the things that you or others have to do we use:

Tener que + infinitive.

Let’s break up this formula so you can comfortably talk about the things that you and others have to do.

Tener que + infinitive. 

The “tener” part of that formula has to be conjugated to allow us to know who is the person that has to do something

Spanish tener que + infinitive video lesson

Tener que + infinitive Chart

Tener = to have. 

Please remember that tener is an irregular verb, therefore it is important to review it’s conjugations.

An infinitive is a verb that has not been conjugated. Infinitives end in -ar, -er & -ir. 

In order for us to talk about the things that you and others have to do we have to use both, the correct conjugation of tener + the infinitive form of a verb.

Tener conjucation Chart My to do list

Let’s look at MY to-do list together. These are the things that I have to do. Pay close attention at the sentence structure and notice the pattern with tener que + infinitive.

  • Tengo que usar la computadora. I have to use the computer.
  • Tengo que prender la computadora. I have to turn on the computer.
  • Tengo que leer mis correos electrónicos. I have to read my e-mails.
  • Tengo que escribir mis correos electrónicos. I have to write my e-mails.
  • Tengo que llamar por teléfono a mis estudiantes. I have to call my students on the phone.
  • Tengo que corregir las tareas de mis estudiantes. I have to grade my students’ homework

I could also add a Yo in front of the tengo. For example: Yo tengo que usar la computadora. 

Did you notice that tener became tengo? That’s because I am saying I have to do those activities.

Now, let’s look at another example. This is a to-do list I created for my son. My intent is to say he has to do those things.

  • Tiene que poner la mesa. He has to set the table.
  • Tiene que lavar los platos. He has to wash the dishes. 
  • Tiene que sacar la basura. He has to take out the trash.
  • Tiene que hacer la tarea. He has to do the homework.

Notice how the tener part of our formula (tener que + inf.) was conjugated in the he/she form. That was done to indicate that he has to do those things.

Another option would be to add a subject pronoun before the tener part or a name. For example I could also say:

  • Él tiene que poner la mesa. 
  • Él tiene que lavar los platos.
  • Él tiene que sacar la basura. 
  • Él tiene que hacer la tarea. 

Alternatively I could say:

  • Nano tiene que poner la mesa. 
  • Nano tiene que lavar los platos. 
  • Nano tiene que sacar la basura. 
  • Nano tiene que hacer la tarea. 

Regardless of the form the tener que + infinitive was in the sentence to be able to talk about the things that you or others have to do. 

Here is an example in the nosotros form. Let’s say I want to say that we have to fold the clothes. I would still use tener que + infinitive but I would change the tener part to match the person who is performing the action. 

Tenemos que doblar la ropa. 


Nosotros tenemos que doblar la ropa. 

Now you have seen how to use tener que + infinitive to talk about the things that you or others have to do. Don’t forget to conjugate the tener part accordingly. 

To ask someone: What do you have to do? You would say 

¿Qué tienes que hacer tú?  

The answer would be in the Yo form.

Yo tengo que + infinitive.

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