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Tenir (To Hold) Meaning, Usage, Example Sentences

Tenir (To Hold) Meaning, Usage, Example Sentences

tenirTenir is an extremely useful and versatile verb in the French language. It’s base or underlying meaning is to hold. On this page we’ll look at meanings of the verb with some example sentences.

Meanings and example sentences

The most basic usage of tenir is to hold in one’s hands.

par example:

  • Je tiens un bouquet de fleurs dans les mains. I’m holding a bouquet of flowers in my hands.
  • Elle tient son fils par la main. She’s holding her son’s hand.

to keep.

  • Il tient ses promesses. He keeps his promises.
  • Elle tient ses engagements. She keeps her commitments.

to own, run or operate.

  • Nous tenons un restaurant à Paris. We own a restaurant in Paris.

to control or keep in check.

  • Le professeur ne sait pas tenir sa classe. The teacher doesn’t know how to control his class.

more usages

Tenir can also proceed an adjective, with an underlying meaning of to keep.

  • Le café me tient éveillé jusqu’à minuit. Coffee keeps me awake until midnight.

Tenir compte de means to take into account.

  • Nous tenons compte de vos opinions. We take your opinions into account.

When followed by the prepositions à and de tenir several more usages:

  • Elle tient de ses deux parents. She takes after both of her parents.
  • Nous tenons à notre maison. We are attached to our house.
  • Je tiens à vous voir. I insist on seeing you.
  • Je tiens à toi! I care for you!

Tenir can also mean to keep or maintain.

  • Je tiens bien cette maison. I maintain this house well.

Another meaning is to be solid or to stay up.

  • Ça ne tient pas très bien et risque de tomber. It’s not staying up very well and risks falling.

As an exclamation “tiens!” can mean “hey!

  • Tiens! C’est Jacques! Hey! It’s Jacques!

When pronominal, se tenir means to take place. Se tenir also means to make sense.

  • La conférence se tient demain. The conference is taking place tomorrow.
  • Son argument se tient. His argument makes sense.
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David Issokson

David Issokson is a lifelong language enthusiast. His head is swimming with words and sounds as he speaks over six languages. Of all the languages he speaks, he's the most passionate about French! David has helped hundreds of students to improve their French in his private online lessons. When procrastinating working on his site,, David enjoys his time skiing and hiking in Teton Valley, Idaho.

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