Here are some situations where choosing between “avere” and “tenere” might be tricky.
1.) To have/keep an item
In the situation above, you couldn’t use “tenere” as a substitute for “avere.”
2.) To not have any money
Here, you can use “tenere,” but “avere” is still preferred.
To Maintain a Situation
1.) Keep/have a secret
However, if you have a secret and you’re not keeping a secret for anybody, you can just use “avere.”
2.) Have/keep in pockets
In this situation, both “avere” and “tenere” can be used.
3.) Have/keep In mind
In this context, “avere” and “tenere” can both be used although the sentence structure will change.
To Hold Something
1.) Hold/have a baby in your arms
In this situation, you can use “avere” interchangeably.
2.) Have a bouquet of flowers
Then, the person you’re talking to might respond to you using the verb “tenere.”
3.) Hold a bouquet with style
In the example above, “tenere” is used to stress the way she holds the bouquet.
To help make this easier, use “tenere” whenever you have something that you’re physically holding “in mano – in your hands” or “in braccio – in your arms.”
It can also be used in figurative expressions, as you saw “tenere in mente,” but since we would be likely to translate that as “keep in mind,” it’s easier to distinguish from “avere.”
“Avere,” on the other hand, is used to talk about something you possess, either literally or figuratively.
If you find yourself in conversation, and you can’t think of which one is right to use, it’s best to ask yourself what the simplest meaning is. For example, instead of saying, “He had a change of heart,” you can say, “He changed his mind” or “Ha cambiato idea.”