You “have to” say it in Spanish! Emergency Spanish for Beginners.

Rush, rush, rush. ………………………………..”¡PRISA, PRISA, PRISA!

If you want to learn Spanish, there are a few basic concepts you MUST have under your belt. One of them has to be expressing the thing or things you HAVE TO do.

Obligations, responsibilities, duties…and so it goes on. There are so many things you just HAVE TO do in your everyday life.

But what if you need to transmit these needs in Spanish?

I’m talking serious here.

You want to know  how to say what you “HAVE TO”  do in Spanish?’

You want to get your head around how to use “TENER QUE” in real sentences?

Great! We are good to go!

Read on a little, then listen and repeat the audio files below to perfect your pronunciation and show off our skills in Spanish.

Scroll down if you want just to hear the audio files and then you can just listen to and repeat.



If you want to learn Spanish in order to function on a practical level in a Spanish-speaking community, you need to get as much of ’emergency Spanish’ under your belt as possible.

For whatever reason, and wherever you are, in a Spanish-speaking environment, you might have to express that you have to do something!

Now that I’ve convinced you that this could be very useful, here are a few scenarios:

You have to work.

You have to go…but you have to come.

You have to eat because you’re hungry. You have to drink because you’re thirsty.

You have to get to work but you also have to get home fast.

You have to get some money from the cash machine and you also have to pick the children- or the grandchildren-  up at three pm. Who knows what you might have to do.

I’m exhausted already just thinking about what you have to do!


And now maybe, just maybe, you have to find out how to say you have to do something in Spanish.

You are in so much luck ( TENÉIS SUERTE) because this is such a simple construction in Spanish.

I know…let’s start with those basic scenarios I mentioned above because we can all relate to at least one of them!

Taking the examples above: you needed to express that you had lots to do. You had to go, to come, to eat, to drink, to arrive at work/home, to take money from a cash machine, to pick the children up etc…

We know from previous articles TENER = To Have. TENGO = I Have.

TENER QUE = To Have to 

You have to work!


Factory workers going to work because they HAVE TO, in Manchester in the snow! by L.S. Lowry (1943)


But let’s see how this really works and how you can put it to great use:

Using the examples from above, you can really see how you may need to use this construction quite often!

So if we remember some basic verbs such as :


To Go = IR

To Come = VENIR

To Eat = COMER

To Drink = BEBER 

To Arrive = LLEGAR

To Take Out = SACAR 

To Pick Up = RECOGER

and then we start knowing that :

I have to…. = TENGO QUE….

all we have to do is put the puzzle together.

Don’t ask why, because there is no reasoning behind language idioms and really  we should be grateful for that.

Just accept it the way it is, notice the PATTERNS and your linguistic journey will be easy-peasy.

Look at the vocabulary above and you’ll see how simple this is.

I have to = TENGO QUE ….and To Work  = TRABAJAR 

then ‘I have to work’  = TENGO QUE TRABAJAR

Listen and repeat the audio file below

I have to go =  TENGO QUE IR 

I have to come    TENGO QUE VENIR 

I have to eat TENGO QUE COMER

I have to drink TENGO QUE BEBER 

I have to get somewhere/ arrive  TENGO QUE LLEGAR 

I have to take out  TENGO QUE SACAR 

I have to pick up….TENGO QUE RECOGER…. 


Can you see a pattern emerging?

have to go = TENGO QUE IR

I have to come = TENGO QUE VENIR

I have to eat = TENGO QUE COMER

I have to drink = TENGO QUE BEBER

I have to arrive = TENGO QUE LLEGAR

I have to take out = TENGO QUE SACAR

I have to pick up = TENGO QUE RECOGER

I really hope this helps…

Let me know if there are any other ways I can help you out here, with this expression in Spanish, or any other. I just love clearing up and sorting out stuff that confuses Spanish learners.

                      Free handbook “Focus on SER”

If you fancy you can always sign up for my Free Handbook: Focus on SER to clarify all your doubts about SER and that would be leaving your e-mail address in the subscription form somewhere on this page!


News in Slow Spanish

But really, really, it would be really great for your listening and comprehension skills if you could take a look at signing up for a Discount Voucher in “NEWS IN SLOW SPANISH” 

This is a fabulous resource I found and I think any Spanish student would benefit from.

Leave a comment in the box below if you’re interested, as the more students we get to sign up, the greater the discount.

Their website is

Check it out then let me know in the comments box if you’re interested and I can get you the Discount Code which at the moment they are offering at 50% reduced rate for my readers. (Thanks so much, Sergio! )

[ Disclaimer: No affiliation with the site; I just think it’s very useful resource]







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