HomeQ&AMeaning of "tener" in the preterit

Meaning of "tener" in the preterit


I am working my way through the Learn Spanish 2.8 Kind of Irregular Preterit lesson and made up flashcards to help me learn all the different spellings. For the conjugations of "tener" I had

I had tuve

You had tuviste

and so forth. But I was reading the reference article on preterit and it indicated that tener changed meaning in the preterit and means to receive. But the translator translated "tuvo" as "I had". Does tener in the preterit tense mean to have or to receive or both? I would like to know if I need to change my flashcards.

Thank you

updated FEB 17, 2010
posted by alice_m

2 Answers


Tuve una idea. I don't consider it to mean recieved although I am not native. I am sure it means both but perhaps Calvo can explain how the above means I received or obtained an idea.

updated FEB 17, 2010
posted by jeezzle
Good point, Jeezzle. I usually think of "tener" as having to do with a physical possession or object, but it does equally apply to such intangibles as ideas. - CalvoViejo, FEB 16, 2010
In the case of an idea, the preterit would mean "had". I gotta vote you up on that one. - CalvoViejo, FEB 16, 2010
Thanks for the example. - alice_m, FEB 17, 2010

The preterit of tener, in my opinion, means received or got or obtained. The preterit indicates a single event that occurred and is over and done with. To have something suggests a period of time, which, in the past, sounds like imperfect.

To the native Spanish speaker, this is not a change of meaning. They often have a difficulty understanding the confusion that native English speakers have with this concept.

I think you will find that most dictionaries translate this preterit as "had", but I think that fails to convey the real meaning into English.

updated FEB 17, 2010
edited by CalvoViejo
posted by CalvoViejo
Thank you for the explanation. I haven't studied the imperfect tense yet - that might be the next lesson. - alice_m, FEB 17, 2010
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