Difference Between Tener and Haber

In Spanish, Tener and Haber are two very commonly used verbs. Learning the difference between the two is a very vital step in learning the language. A Google Translate would translate both the words as “to have.” It is technically correct in English but far different while applying them in Spanish.

A focused discussion would surely help us to gain better knowledge. Let us jot down some distinct differences to study them better. A better understanding will guide us to use them in sentences in the right way.

Tener vs Haber

The main difference between Tener and Haber is that Tener refers to the ownership of something that can be an item or a feeling, whereas, Haber refers to the obligation to perform some particular act. They are the very commonly used terms used in learning basic Spanish. The English translation of both is “to have”.

Tener vs Haber

Tener is a Spanish word whose direct translation is “to have.” It emphasizes when an action is already been completed. They always have a subject. A subject is someone who performs the action. It acts as the main verb. It is not the synonym for the word Haber and has a very different meaning.

On the other hand, Haber is a Spanish word whose translation can vary from “to have” to “there is.” The latter one is the most common situation of the verb. They do not have a subject. It acts as an auxiliary verb. It acts as the main verb. It is not the synonym for the word Haber and has a very different meaning.

Comparison Table Between Tener and Haber

Parameters of DifferenceTenerHaber
Verb formIn Spanish, Tener is the main verb.In Spanish, Haber is an auxiliary verb.
UseThis term is used to refer to the ownership of something. It can be items or feelings.This term is used to refer to the obligation to perform an act or a past act.
SituationWe use Tener to add a traditional form in the sentence.We use Haber to express the perfect tense.
TypeIt is quite an irregular type of verb.It is an impersonate verb.
ExamplesHe owns the office.He works in the office.

What is Tener?

Tener has several uses, the most common being taking about possession. It expresses obligation for certain acts in the past or present. Unlike Haber, the meaning of Tener is restricted to only “to have.” Tener is used for emphasizing the action. It is basically the direct translation of “to have” and is consistent with its meaning.

One of the unique characteristics of Tener is that it always has a subject. It means the sentence always has someone around whom the incident is revolving. The subject performs the action.With the usage of Tener, it is noticed that the past particle or the second verb is bound to agree with the gender. Another rule is that the number or age should agree with the compliment.For example, “I own a car.” in this sentence, we are talking about ownership of something. It is either an item or some feeling. It does not require or focuses on a speaker.

What is Haber?

Haber is used to mentioning the presence of something. It might also be used to approve or identify the presence of an object. In Spanish, it is essential very to create most of the possible compound sentences. This shows its conjunctive property. Although a direct English translation says Haber means “to have”, there is more to it. It can mean “to have” or “there is/ there are,” depending on the sentence. We need to learn the use and put them in appropriate contexts. It is used to inform that a particular incident is been recently completed. It can swiftly be used as a synonym for “to take place” or “to offer”.

Wen Haber is in a sentence, it is not linked to a person or a subject. Phrases without subjects are known as impersonal expressions. It focuses on necessities or duties. They involve items or feelings. Besides, it is also used to propose an informal offer. They sometimes refer to some suggestions. However, this should not be confused with the obligation. For example, “He lives in Bangalore.” This sentence is referring to some act being performed. A speaker is essential to perform the need.

Main Differences Between Tener and Haber

  1. The most distinct difference is the context they are used in. Tener is used to referring to the possession of something. It is used in context with ownership. On the other hand, Haber is used in the context with the obligation to perform something. Sometimes it also refers to certain suggestions but that should not be confused with possession.
  2. Talking about the style of the verb, Tener preferably adds a traditional touch to the sentence whereas Haber is preferred for the perfect tense.
  3. Tener specifically means “to have” and does not varies in its meaning. Haber however has a variety of applications. It might mean “to be” and might also mean “there is”, depending upon the context and situation.
  4. One of the basic necessities for a Tener is a speaker. It needs a speaker who indeed performs the act. They involve items or feelings. Haber does not require or contains any person or speaker. It involves items or feelings and revolves around their ownership.
  5. Knowing and understanding the verb type is very important which helps us to use the words correctly in a sentence. Tener is quite of an irregular verb whereas Haber is an impersonate verb. It is used in compound tenses.


An English translation gives us the idea that these two are synonyms for each other. However, that is not the case. They are not a substitute for each other, nor are they interchangeable. This confusion might eventually lead to some grammatical errors. They are the two most widely used terms in Spanish.

The verbs Tener and Haber are used in similar grammatical structures. But they do give a different meaning to the sentence.


  1. https://www.rivisteweb.it/doi/10.1418/73678
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