Household Chores in Spanish: Hay and Tener Que + Activities

¿Qué tareas domésticas te gusta hacer? “Los Quehaceres”, “Las tareas del hogar” and “Los oficios de la casa” are three ways to refer to household chores in Spanish. This lesson will introduce the vocabulary for these tasks through a short video and several mini-conversations. In addition, we will discuss about ways to express obligations in Spanish using “Tener que”, “Hay que” and “Deber”. Comencemos…

A list of common activities for household chores in Spanish

First, we will watch a short video introducing a list of common household chores in Spanish. These words will be used later in short conversations. The video consists of pictures representing different chores as well as some useful questions and phrases related to these new words. In addition, it contains a few grammar notes explaining how the examples work. The video is only in Spanish so it will be a good opportunity to practice listening. You can activate the captions (cc) if you need them.

HAY QUE + Infinitive for obligations in Spanish

LOS QUEHACERES or household chores in Spanish are just verbs indicating a simple action like LIMPIAR (to clean), “LAVAR” (to wash) and so on. We will relate the vocabulary for these tasks with verbs used to express obligations in Spanish as they are often connected in real life. In order to say what someone has to do in Spanish, three verb forms can be used: HAY QUE, TENER QUE and DEBER.

Let’s discuss HAY QUE + infinitive for expressing obligations in Spanish. HAY comes from the verb HABER and means THERE IS/THERE ARE, but when it is accompanied by the word QUE it means something different: HAVE TO. The phrase HAY QUE is normally used to express obligations in Spanish without specifically saying who has to do a task or chore in this case, so it is somewhat impersonal  e.g.: “Hay que lavar los trastes” (someone has to wash the dishes) and “Hay que cocinar” (someone has to cook).

Basic conversations using HAY QUE + chores

Jack: ¡y…! ¡La casa está súper sucia!
Xochilt: Si, ni lo menciones. Hay que limpiar ahorita.
Jack: Hay que mover estos muebles primero.
Xochilt: Te dejo eso a ti. Yo tengo que lavar los trastes y arreglar la cocina.
Read translation: Hay que + infinitive
Jack: wow! The house is super dirty!
Xochilt: Yes, don´t even mention it. We have to clean it right now.
Jack: We have to move the furniture first.
Xochilt: I’ll leave that to you. I have to wash the dishes and order the kitchen.
Jack: ¿Qué estás haciendo?
Xochilt: Estoy cocinando el desayuno para los niños.
Jack: ¿Te ayudo a lavar los trastes?
Xochilt: Si por favor… También hay que sacar la basura ¿Lo puedes hacer?
Jack: Si, no hay problema
Read translation: Hay que + infinitive
Jack: What are you doing?
Xochilt: I’m cooking breakfast for the kids.
Jack: Can I help you wash the dishes?
Xochilt: Yes please … I also have to take out the trash. Can you do it?
Jack: Yes, no problem

TENER QUE + Infinitive to express obligations in Spanish

Now, let’s talk about TENER QUE. TENER means “to have” in Spanish and it happens to be an irregular verb too, just like HABER, so it will change a little depending on the subject of the sentence, e.g. Yo tengo, tú tienes and so on. We normally add the word QUE after the conjugation of TENER to express obligations in Spanish. Basically, the grammatical structure will be:

Sujeto + Tener (conjugated) + que + infinitive (chore or any other task)
E.g. “(Yo) Tengo que sacar la basura” and “(Nosotros) Tenemos que limpiar la casa”.

Household chores in Spanish and expressing obligations
TENER QUE + Los quehaceres

Basic conversations using TENER QUE + chores

Xochilt: Tú tienes que hacer las compras hoy.
Jack: Está bien. ¿Qué quehaceres tienes que hacer esta mañana?
Xochilt: Bueno, solo tengo que barrer y trapear el piso, entre otras cosas.
Jack: ¡Ya es tarde! Al menos voy a ayudarte a regar las plantas.
Read translation: Tener que + infinitive
Xochilt: You have to do the shopping today.
Jack: Okay. What chores do you have to do this morning?
Xochilt: Well, I have to sweep and mop the floor, among other things.
Jack: It’s too late! At least I’ll help you water the plants.
Xochilt: Jack, ¿Ya hiciste la cama?
Jack: Si, no te preocupes.
Xochilt: Recuerda limpiar tu habitación después. ¿Tienes ropa sucia?
Jack: Si, tengo que lavar mi ropa hoy porque ya no tengo ropa limpia.
Xochilt: Mientras tanto, yo voy a poner la mesa.
Readtranslation: Tener que + infinitive
Xochilt: Jack, Have you made your bed?
Jack: Yes, don´t worry.
Xochilt: Remember to clean your room later. Got laundry?
Jack: Yes, I have to wash my clothes today because I have no clean clothes.
Xochilt: Meanwhile, I’m going to set the table.

Using DEBER to say “You must…” in Spanish

Finally, the last verb we will discuss is DEBER. It is very easy to express obligations in Spanish with DEBER because it acts just like the modal verb MUST from the English language. DEBER is a regular verb so we just need to follow some rules to use it correctly, and unlike TENER and HAY, it will not need the word QUE. Here are two examples using DEBER in Spanish:

1. “Yo debo hacer la hacer las compras”
2. “Tú debes regar las plantas”.

Language tip: It is common to use IR A + a chore to say what you will do later. We use IR A meaning going to in Spanish. Just remember that IR is an irregular verb so it is really important to use the right conjugation for each subject pronoun, e.g. “Yo voy a…”, “tú vas a…” and so on.

Listening Activity No. 1: What are your chores in Spanish?

Listen to a conversation between two friends talking about their chores in Spanish and other obligations. Take notes of the information you consider important and listen carefully to identify the phrases presented in the examples provided. Press PLAY to listen to the conversation.

Key expressions in the conversation:
1. ¿Por qué preguntas? means Why do you ask?
2. La casa está hecha un desastre means The house is a total mess
3. Manos a la obra means Down to work

A listening quiz on household chores and obligations in Spanish

This short listening quiz is related to the content of the conversation about household chores and obligations in Spanish presented before. Listen to the conversation again and then choose the right answer. You will receive a tip every time you find a correct answer. Press START when you are ready.
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Conversation script: ¿Qué quehaceres del hogar debes hacer?
Jack: Hola Xochilt…. Te estaba buscando ¿Qué tienes que hacer esta tarde?
Xochilt: Tengo que hacer los quehaceres de la casa… ¿por qué preguntas?
Jack: Quería invitarte a salir pero estás ocupada…
Xochilt: Si, tengo que limpiar la casa, lavar los platos, hacer las compras y muchas cosas más.
Jack: La casa está hecha un desastre… creo que también hay que barrer y trapear el piso…
Xochilt: Esta parece una casa abandonada… tengo que sacudir todo este polvo
Jack: ¿Te puedo ayudar a regar las plantas del jardín?
Xochilt: Si, por favor… ¿Puedes sacar la basura después?
Jack: Si, no hay problema.
Xochilt: Al menos estás aquí para ayudarme un poco…
Jack: Espero que no terminemos cansados.
Xochilt: Bien, manos a la obra.

Listening Activity No. 2: Finding the right household chores in Spanish

Listen to another short conversation about household chores in Spanish. Listen to it and try to find the main idea. Then choose the summary that best describes the house they are talking about and the chores (quehaceres) that need to be done. Make sure to listen to the audio carefully so you can select an appropriate description.

1. La conversación es un fin de semana por la mañana porque hay que cocinar el desayuno. Ellos tienen que barrer el piso, sacar la basura y limpiar las habitaciones, entre otras cosas.
2. La conversación es un lunes por la mañana porque hay que cocinar el desayuno. Ellos tienen que regar las plantas, sacar la basura y limpiar la cocina, entre otras cosas.
3. La conversación es un fin de semana por la tarde porque pero no hay que hacer muchos quehaceres. Solo hay que barrer el piso y sacudir el polvo de los muebles.

Lesson assignment:

Make a list of household chores in Spanish you do at home. It can be make-believe. You could use sequence words like PRIMERO, LUEGO and POR ÚLTIMO to make your sentences follow a specific order.


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