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  • Writer's pictureSpanishWithDaniel

In English You Are, In Spanish You Have

Updated: Jun 9, 2020

One of the most wonderful things about learning another language ​​is being able to see the world from a different perspective. It is not always just a matter of using different words. Just as there are infinite possible ways to call something, there are also many ways to approach reality. Different languages can focus on different aspects of that same reality, just like friends that can make us see something from different perspectives. Maybe we can put it this way, languages are like millions of friends from the past and the present helping us see the world in different ways. Sometimes in ways we didn’t know were possible.

For instance, in English you are 26 years old, while in Spanish you have 26 years. Where do you have those years? In the backpack of your life, of course. Why do you think Spanish, like many other languages around the world, use the verb to have here? Well, maybe in part because it has been that way for centuries, and so it is difficult to know exactly how and why it came to be. If you ask me, we use to have in the same way we say I have experience. Maybe, in that sense, to have years is like something we have been accumulating in the past and we still possess in the present.


There are many other situations in which Spanish uses to have while English uses to be, or different verbs. As in I feel like (doing something), which in Spanish is tengo ganas de (hacer algo). What we literally say here is: I have the desire, interest or urge (to do something).


Hoy tengo ganas de salir a correr.

Today I feel like going on a run.


In another example: you are right in English is you have correctness, rightness or truth in Spanish.


Megan tiene razón, nosotros estamos equivocados.

Megan is right, we are wrong.


* Notice how although we use tener to talk about being right, we still use estar, to be, to talk about being wrong, as you do in English.


The following are more examples where we use to have in Spanish, while in English the first option would be to be:


Tengo hambre I'm hungry

Tengo sed I'm thirsty

Tengo cuidado I’m careful

Tengo miedo I'm scared

Tengo sueño I'm sleepy

Tengo cosquillas I’m ticklish

Tengo prisa I'm in a hurry

Tengo suerte I'm lucky

Tengo vergüenza I’m embarrassed

Tengo calor I'm hot

Tengo frío I'm cold


If you enjoyed this article please share it with friends and give my page a like on Facebook! I’m a Spanish teacher based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Since 2007 I have been exclusively teaching Spanish to people from all over the world. Whether looking for an online Spanish tutor, or in person while visiting Buenos Aires, please reach out to me with any questions you might have!
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