How to use “Hay que” in Spanish?

how to use hay que in spanish - spanish grammar

In this section of the Speak Like a Mexican Blog  I am going to teach you some grammar things that you can use to expand your Spanish speaking skills. Remember that every new thing you learn is a step towards greater understanding and fluency in the Spanish language. In this blog we will start with explaining how to use “hay que” in Spanish. 

Table of Contents

1. How to understand “hay que” in Spanish?

When we find ourselves in a situation in which we think that something needs to be done about an issue, but we do not want to name a specific person for the task, we have in Spanish the expression “hay que” which gives us the opportunity to express the convenience or need for something to be done. 

Some of the common situations where we hear the use of the expression “hay que” is when we know that there are some relevant issues in the public sphere, for example; crime, climate change, discrimination. And on such issues we always hear calls to action as follows: 

  • Someone needs to put more police on the streets (Hay que poner más policias en las calles).
  • Someone needs to help fight climate change (hay que combatir el cambio climático).
  • Someone or the people needs to be more tolerant (hay que ser más tolerantes).

Now in more common contexts of Mexican life. In our parents’ homes we hear them tell us:

  • Someone has to set the table (hay que poner la mesa).
  • Someone has to take the dog for a walk (hay que sacar al perro a pasear).
  • Someone has to help around the house (hay que ayudar en la casa.

2. Grammar of the phrase “hay que” in Spanish?

Now we have to see how this grammatical form is composed. 


“hay que” is related to the verb “haber” and in Spanish this verb is impersonal and in the present tense it is only conjugated in the form : “hay”. 


And when we add “que” we have the conjunction that forms “hay que” which indicates the necessity that something has to be done. 


To make a sentence with this meaning we construct it in the following way: 


“hay que” + an infinitive verb.


Example: “Hay que limpiar la casa” (the house needs to be cleaned).

           “Hay que levantar la basura de la calle” (we have to pick up the garbage from the street).

how to use hay que in spanish

3. Examples in which we can use “hay que” in Spanish

In another situation where it can be used is when we want to make a list of actions that we think may be necessary to reach a certain goal. In other words, if we have the question “How can I learn Spanish in one year?

We can make a list in the following way of the general things we think might be desirable to do: 

  • “Hay que estudiar muchos verbos (you have to study a lot of verbs).
  • “Hay que leer muchos textos en español de diferentes niveles” (you have to read a lot of Spanish texts of different levels).
  • “Hay que practicar español con hispanohablantes”(you have to practice Spanish with Spanish speakers).
  • “hay que ver muchos videos en español“(you have to watch a lot of videos in Spanish).
  • “Hay que escuchar música en español”(you have to listen to music in Spanish).
  • “Hay que tomar clases de español“(You have to take Spanish classes).
  • “hay que escuchar podcasts en español“(you have to listen to podcasts in Spanish).

Although in English we seem to be addressing a specific person as indicated by the subject “you”. In Spanish when we use “hay que estudiar muchos verbos” it is a general statement where we understand that in order for someone to reach the goal of learning Spanish they have to learn many verbs.

Unlike the conjunction “tener que” where the subject is the one who is established as the one who has the need to do something, e.g.: “yo tengo que comer más saludable para estar en forma” (I have to eat healthier to be in shape). in “hay que” only indicates that someone has to do something in order to achieve a certain objective. 

4. How to use "tener que" in Spanish

In the case of the conjunction “tener que” it is easier to understand, since here the action of obligation is performed by the subject of the sentence.

For example: “tengo que hacer un examen de idioma español” (I have to take this Spanish language exam).

Here the subject “I” is the one who has the obligation.

Let’s remember that the structure of this phrase is as follows

“Tener” (conjugated) + que + infinitive verb


I hope you liked this explanation. Greetings to all!

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