When do you use "tengo" and "estoy" | SpanishDict Answers
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When do you say: Tengo Frio when do you say estoy enfermo

or should you say: Estoy frio and tengo enferno

  • Posted Mar 19, 2010
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  • You were right first time tengo frio and estoy enfermo. - kenwilliams Mar 19, 2010 flag

8 Answers

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Tengo = I have Estoy = I am

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Because I did not find any of the above answers completely clear (I think the correct answer is that you just have to memorize which states(feelings) use tener+noun and which use estar+adjective), I provide this link:

Tener idioms

From this link:

That's because tener, the verb meaning "to have" in the sense of "to possess" (haber is the equivalent of the English auxiliary verb "to have") is frequently used in idioms to refer to a wide range of emotions and other states of being. While we may say in English that you are hungry or a person is thirsty, in Spanish we say the equivalent of you have hunger or someone has thirst. Thus tienes hambre means "you are hungry" and tiene sed means "he/she is thirsty."

Most of the "tener + noun " idioms aren't hard to learn, as they generally make sense as long as you know what the noun part of the phrase means. What can be challenging is learning when their use is preferred. For example, you may be aware that there is an adjective, hambriento, that means "hungry." But you're unlikely to hear a sentence such as estoy hambriento (just as you aren't likely to hear a native English speaker say, "I have hunger," even though the sentence would be understood).

The site at this link lists a number of examples where "to be" would be used in English and "tener" in Spanish.

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Check this thread smile

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This is a pretty tricky question. The way I think of it (although this may or may not be a rule) is that you use tengo when the second word is a noun you use estoy when the second word is an adjective. Frio is a noun you use tengo. enfermo is an adjective you use estoy. You're saying I have cold, which may sound weird, but it is correct. Or you're saying I am sick. For the most part, you're just going to have to figure out when it is proper to use tengo and when it is proper to use estoy.

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You usually say tengo when you are describing yourself and you use estoy when someone asks you how are you.

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I heard that estoy is used more for feelings, like "tengo frío" means "I am cold" in the sense of "I am freezing" while "estoy frío" means "I am a cold person" in the sense "I have a cold heart".

Can someone confirm or deny this, por favor? I'm struggling with this aswell smile

  • If you were describing yourself as a person (instead of a temporary condition you are experiencing) you would use Ser instead of Estar. So you would say 'soy frio' but I can't imagine you would want to say that :) - Kiwi-Girl Sep 27, 2010 flag
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I have no idea if I'm right, but I took tengo to mean "I am" in the sense "I have", like you would have a certain number of years when you say "tengo __ añs", but estoy is more a temporary state of being.

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The thing may be that there is no rule, i.e., some states and conditions like estar and some like tener. And you just have to go with what you hear from native speakers. Tengo sed, not estoy sed; me da vergüenza, not tengo vergüenza (actually I think tengo vergüenza is ok); estoy cansado, not tengo cansado. Actually now that I think about it I think that it's tener with a nown and estar with an adjective. I admit that I'm not real well versed in grammar.

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