Tengo que

Last month you had some more homework to do, so here are the answers as usual. This time you had to translate into English.

Necesito firmar esto para comprar mi casa.
I need to sign this in order to buy my house.
Voy a volver a casa para ver el fútbol.
I’m going to return home to watch the football.
Quiero aprender español para hablar con mi vecino.
I want to learn Spanish in order to speak to my neighbour.

Notice that sometimes it’s appropriate to say ‘to’ and sometimes ‘in order to’, as the two have the same meaning.

This month we’re going to look at one more ‘first person’ expression, before moving on to pastures new in the next lesson. This time the expression consists of two words: tengo que.

Tengo que means ‘I have to’, so therefore expresses an obligation. We all have obligations; I know I have plenty, though sometimes I despair when I’m teaching students who tell me they left all their obligations behind them when they moved to Spain!

I think I’ll tell you some of my obligations so you can feel sorry for me as well as learn some more Spanish.
Tengo que levantarme temprano.
I have to get up early.
Tengo que llevar a mis hijos al instituto.
I have to take my children to school.
Tengo que ordenar la casa.
I have to tidy up the house.
Tengo que preparar mis clases.
I have to prepare my classes.
Tengo que dar de comer a mi gata.
I have to feed my cat.
Tengo que hablar con mis estudiantes.
I have to speak to my students.
Tengo que conducir mucho.
I have to drive a lot.
Tengo que hacer las compras.
I have to do the shopping.
Tengo que usar el ordenador.
I have to use the computer.
Tengo que escribir este artículo.
I have to write this article.
Tengo que …..

Now I’d like you to rack your brains for things you have to do. There must be something like: Tengo que usar el mando de distancia. (I have to use the remote control).

Some people find it strange that by adding the word que to tengo we can change the meaning from ‘have’ to ‘have to’. This is only strange if we are still expecting to be able to translate word for word between the two languages. Que does not generally translate as ‘to’. It usually means ‘that’ or ‘what’. Individual words and especially those small linking words, have to be understood in a context as part of a whole expression.
Most of you know that tengo on its own means ‘I have’, and I’m sure many are aware that this changes to tienes to make the familiar form ‘you have’. Exactly the same change occurs with tengo que, ‘I have to’, and tienes que, which therefore means ‘you have to’.

This form can be useful in questions as well as in giving instructions:

¿Tienes que trabajar hoy?
Do you have to work today?
Tienes que tomar este medicamento.
You have to take this medicine.

There are many examples of how this can be used, but what I want to do is give you the general picture of how these simple forms are put together. Your homework this month is to write down all the things you have to do, beginning with tengo que. Remember that the next word is a verb in the infinitive (Tengo que estudiar español, for example).

You can use a dictionary to find the words you need, but don’t get too complicated. Do what I do and keep it simple!!

Jane Cronin’s “Step by Step Spanish” articles are now available as e-books at www.janecronin.eu where you can also obtain Jane’s brand new “Step by Step Internet Spanish” course.