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Spanish Lesson Beginner 32 Spanish verbs of obligation: Tener que, Deber & Hay que Posted by on Apr 10, 2012 in Learning, Spanish Grammar, Spanish Vocabulary, Videos

¡Hola a todos!

Hoy vamos a ver cómo expresar obligaciones y sugerencias en español.

Today we are going to see how to express obligations and suggestions in Spanish. There are three main ways to do this using the Spanish verbs Tener que, Deber & Hay que. Tener que translates to “Have to…” in English, Deber translates to “Must…” in English and “Hay que” translates to “One has to…” in English.

As always it is vital to be clear on how to conjugate your verbs for all of the persons: Yo, Tú, Usted, Él, Ella, Nosotros, Vosotros, Ustedes, and Ellos or Ellas. I will show you exactly how to do this for these Spanish verbs of obligation and give you some example Spanish sentences to illustrate how each verb is used.

So let’s get started by looking at the Spanish verb Tener que:

1. Tener que + infinitivo: To have to + infinitive:

• (Yo) tengo que: I have to
• Tengo que estudiar: I have to study
• (Tú) tienes que: You have to (friendly)
• Tienes que trabajar más: You have to work more (friendly)
• (Usted) tiene que: You have to (formal)
• Tiene que trababjar más: You have to work more (formal)
• (Él/Ella) tiene que: He/She has to
• Marta tiene que ir a Madrid: Marta has to go to Madrid
• (Nosotros) tenemos que: We have to
• Tenemos que hablar: We have to talk
• (Vosotros) tenéis que: You have to (group/friendly)
• Tenéis que comer pescado: You have to eat fish (group/friendly)
• (Ustedes) tienen que: You have to (group/formal)
• Tienen que comer pescado: You have to eat fish (group/formal)
• (Ellos) tienen que: They have to
• Marcos y Pablo tienen que visitar a sus padres: Marcos and Pablo have to visit their parents

2. Deber: Must:

• (Yo) debo: I must
• Debo estudiar: I must study
• (Tú) debes: You must (friendly)
• Debes trabajar más: You must work more (friendly)
• (Usted) debe: You must (formal)
• Debe trababjar más: You must work more (formal)
• (Él/Ella) debe: He/she must
• Marta debe ir a Madrid: Marta must go to Madrid
• (Nosotros/as) debemos: We must
• Debemos hablar: We must talk
• (Vosotros/as) debéis: You must (group/friendly)
• Debéis comer pescado: You must eat fish (group/friendly)
• (Ustedes) deben: You must (group/formal)
• Deben comer pescado: You must eat fish (group/formal)
• (Ellos/as) deben: They must
• Marcos y Pablo deben visitar a sus padres: Marcos and Pablo must visit their parents

3. Hay que: One has to:

Hay que is a Spanish verb of general obligation, so we will not have to learn how to conjugate it for all the persons. Hay que is used for general statements about things that people/we/one should do, such as “One has to recycle” or “One should say please and thank you”.

Let’s see some more examples:

• Hay que reciclar: One has to recycle
• Hay que comer un poco de todo: One has to eat a bit of everything
• Hay que beber ocho vasos de agua al día: One has to drink eight glasses of water a day
• Hay que lavarse los dientes tres veces al día: One has to brush ones teeth three times a day
• Hay que ser generoso: One has to be generous
• Hay que decir “por favor” y “gracias”: One has to say “please” and “thank you”

We have seen lots of random example Spanish sentences here in this lesson to illustrate the use of Tener que, Deber, and Hay que. Now it is down to you to make up your own practice Spanish sentences to revise what you have learned here and to make sure that you are 100% clear and confident on conjugating the verbs for all of the different persons.

I hope that you are getting steadily more and more confident with your Spanish and enjoying the process of learning a foreign language. We are up to lesson 32 in this beginner course so I think you deserve a very well earned pat on the back from me.

Remember it takes time and dedication to learn any foreign language and sometimes it can feel like a bit of a struggle, but the rewards are definitely worth the effort.

So keep up the good work and see you next time with another Spanish video lesson!

¡Hasta la próxima!

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About the Author: Laura & Adam

Laura & Adam have been blogging and creating online Spanish courses for Transparent Language since 2010. Laura is from Bilbao in northern Spain and Adam is from Devon in the south of England. They lived together in Spain for over 10 years, where their 2 daughters were born, and now they live in Scotland. Both Laura & Adam qualified as foreign language teachers in 2004 and since have been teaching Spanish in Spain, the UK, and online.


  1. Phil:

    And what about “haber de” + infinitive? That gets used quite a bit around here (Extremadura, Spain)

  2. Jared Romey:

    I thought that DEBER would better be translated as “should”, so DEBO ESTUDIAR would be translated as “I should study” instead of “must”??

  3. Alisha Hussain:

    I found your hints very useful. I even practised it.
    Thanks for your help..

    • Laura:

      @Alisha Hussain ¡Good for you Alisha! Practice makes perfect. Saludos, Laura

  4. Sameer khan:

    You helped me alot in this topic thanx.. dear.. hasta lavista..