Why do I need to know tiens?
Tiens is said all the time in France, particularly when someone is serving you food and drink, and while in certain situations it can be easy to guess what people mean when they say it, that isn't always the case.
So, what does tiens mean?
One of the meanings of tiens is 'here you go' or 'there you go'. For example: Tu me pretes un stylo? – Tiens — Can I borrow a pen? – Here you go.
You'll hear this use of tiens, along with the plural form tenez, very frequently in places like cafes and bars as the server hands you your order.
The plural form works in exactly the same way: Tenez, je vous ai acheté des fraises – 'Here, I bought you some strawberries.'
However tiens can also be used to indicate surprise.
In this situation it would be the equivalent of someone saying 'damn', 'blast', 'well' or else 'darn' or shoot' in American English.
For example, Tiens, je me suis encore trompé! (Damn, I got it wrong again!).
On top of that it can also be used to draw attention to something.
So, for example, if you hear someone say Tiens, prends ce vase et pose-le là-bas. (Hey, take this vase and put it over there).
All uses of tiens are very colloquial so it's important to avoid using it when you're in a formal environment.
Here's a handy YouTube video to help you get the right pronunciation of tiens.