Idioms Using 'Haber'

Verb Used in Everyday Expressions

Torres de Paine National Park in Chile
¿Cuánto hay de aquí al parque nacional Torres del Paine? (How far is it from here to Torres del Paine National Park?). Photo by Douglas Scortegagna; licensed via Creative Commons.

Like many other common verbs, haber is used to form a variety of idioms. As phrases whose meanings don't depend on the literal meanings of the individual words, idioms can be somewhat challenging to learn. But they are a necessary part of language, and some of them using haber express everyday concepts and are used often.

Following are the most common idioms using haber. For other usages of haber, see lessons on its use as an auxiliary verb and as a translation for "there is" or "there are." Also note that the conjugation of haber is highly irregular.

  • haber (in the third-person singular) que + infinitive — to be necessary to, to be essential to — Hay que comer. It is necessary to eat. Habrá que salir a las tres. It will be necessary to leave at 3.
  • haber de + infinitive — to be to, to be supposed to — Hemos de salir a las tres. We are to leave at 3. He de viajar a Nueva York. I am supposed to go to New York.
  • haber de + infinitive — must (in the sense of showing high probability) — Ha de ser inteligente. He must be intelligent. Había de ser las nueve de la noche. It must have been 9 p.m.
  • había una vez (or, less frequently, hubo una vez) — Once upon a time ... — Había una vez un granjero que tenía una granja muy grande. Once upon a time there was a farmer with a very large farm.
  • no haber tal — to be no such thing — No hay tal cosa como un almuerzo gratis. There's no such thing as a free lunch.
  • ¡Qué hubo!, ¡Quihúbole! (regional variation) — Hi! What's happening?
  • No hay de qué. — Don't mention it. It's not important. No big deal.
  • habérselas con — to have it out with, to quarrel with — Me las había con mi madre. I had it out with my mother.
  • ¿Cuánto hay de ... ? — How far is it from ... ? — ¿Cuánto hay de aquí al parque nacional? How far is it from here to the national park?
  • ¿Qué hay? ¿Qué hay de nuevo? — What's happening? What's new?
  • he aquí — here is, here are. — He aquí una lista de nombres. Here is a list of names.
  • Heme aquí. — Here I am.
  • He lo aquí. He lo allí. He los aquí. He los allí. — Here it is. There it is. Here they are. There they are.
  • ¡He dicho! — And that's that!

Keep in mind also that many expressions use hay. Although the meaning of many of them can be deduced from the words, they aren't necessarily translated literally. For example, hay sol (literally, "there is sun") is often used for "it is sunny," and ¡eres de lo que no hay! (literally, "you are of that which there are none") can be used for "you're unbelievable!" or something like that.