Verb "To Have" in English

by Craig Shrives

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How to Use "To Have" in English

The verb "to have" is a common verb in English. It has 4 different forms:
  • have, has, having, had
"To have" is an unusual verb because it can function as:
  • (1) A main verb
    • I have an apple.
    • (As a main verb, it usually means "to possess.")
  • (2) An auxiliary verb
    • I have eaten an apple.
    • (As an auxiliary verb, it helps to show tense.)
  • (3) A modal verb
    • I have to eat an apple.
    • (As a modal verb, "have to" means "must.")
the verb to have in English

"To Have" As a Main Verb

As a main verb, "to have" has many meanings, but most of the time, it will mean "to possess" or "to experience". For example:
  • I have a dog.
  • (I "possess" a dog.)
  • She has a Mathematics degree.
  • (She "possesses" a Mathematics degree.)
  • I had a good day.
  • (I "experienced" a great day.)

"To Have" As an Auxiliary Verb

As an auxiliary verb (or helping verb), the meaning comes from the verb it is helping. For example:
  • I have worked all day.
  • (Here, "to have" is an auxiliary verb helping the verb "to work.")
  • Sarah has flown back to Argentina.
  • (Here, "to have" is an auxiliary verb helping the verb "to fly.")
  • He had heard the truth.
  • (Here, "to have" is an auxiliary verb helping the verb "to hear.")
When "to have" is used as an auxiliary verb, it is often shortened - especially in everyday speech.
  • I've worked all day.
  • (Notice that have becomes 've.)
  • Sarah's flown back to Argentina.
  • (Notice that has becomes 's.)
  • He'd heard the truth.
  • (Notice that had becomes 'd.)
The new words created by adding shortened versions of "to have" are called contractions.

More about "To Have" As an Auxiliary Verb

When used as an auxiliary verb, "to have" helps to show the tense of the verb it is helping.

The "has" and "have" forms are used to show the present perfect tense.

"has" or "have"
+
[past participle]
For example:
  • Tom has cleaned the car.

The "had" form is used to show the past perfect tense.

"had"
+
[past participle]
For example:
  • Tom and Alice had cleaned the car.

"To Have" As a Modal Verb

When used as a modal verb, "have to" means "must." It expresses an obligation or necessity.
[form of "have"]
+
"to"
+
[base form of verb]
  • Tom and Alice have to clean the car.

The 5 Forms of a Verb

As we've covered, there are 4 different versions of the verb "to have." They are "have," "has," "had," and "having." There are no other versions of the verb.

This table shows where these feature in the 5 grammatical forms of a verb:
FormTo HaveAlternative Name
Base FormhaveInfinitive Form
Present Tense Formshas, have[no alternative name]
Past FormshadSimple Past Tense
The -ING FormhavingPresent Participle Form
The Past Participle Formhad[no alternative name]
  • "Has" and "have" are the present tense forms.
  • I have a dog.We have a dog.
    You have a dog.You have a dog.
    He/she/it has a dog.They have a dog.
  • "Had" is the past tense form.
  • I had a cat.We had a cat.
    You had a cat.You had a cat.
    He/she/it had a cat.They had a cat.
  • "Had" is also the past participle form.
    • We have had a wonderful time.
    • (In this example, "have" is an auxiliary verb, helping to form the present perfect tense, and "had" is the main verb in the form a past participle. Remember that "to have" is unusual because it can be an auxiliary verb and a main verb.)
  • "Having" is the present participle form.
  • "Having" can be the main verb.
    • The horses were having fun.
    • (The horses were "experiencing" fun. In this example, "were" is an auxiliary verb.)
    "Having" can be an auxiliary verb.
    • Having seen that, I now believe in ghosts.
    • (Here, "having" is an auxiliary verb helping the verb "to see.")

Negative Forms of "To Have"

Creating the negative forms of "to have" is difficult for leaners because the negative form depends whether "to have" is a main verb, an auxiliary verb, or a modal verb.
formmain verb
or
modal verb
auxiliary verb
havedo not have
(don't have)
have not
(haven't)
hasdoes not have
(doesn't have)
has not
(hasn't)
haddid not have
(didn't have)
had not
(hadn't)
havingnot havingnot having

More about "To Have"

The verb "have" is an irregular verb. (This means that "have" does not form its simple past tense or its past participle by adding "-ed" or "-d" to the base form.)

Conjugating "To Have" Fully

The tables below show how "to have" conjugates in all 12 of the past, present, and future tenses. Bear in mind that "to have" is used as both the auxiliary verb and the main verb in these conjugation tables.

Past Tenses

PersonSimple PastPast Progressive TensePast Perfect TensePast Perfect Progressive Tense
  • I
  • you
  • he/she/it
  • we
  • you
  • they
  • had
  • had
  • had
  • had
  • had
  • had
The simple past tense is for a completed activity that happened in the past.
  • was having
  • were having
  • was having
  • were having
  • were having
  • were having
The past progressive tense is for an ongoing activity in the past. Often, it is used to set the scene for another action.
  • had had
  • had had
  • had had
  • had had
  • had had
  • had had
The past perfect tense is for emphasizing that an action was completed before another took place.
  • had been having
  • had been having
  • had been having
  • had been having
  • had been having
  • had been having
The past perfect progressive tense is for showing that an ongoing action in the past has ended.

Present Tenses

PersonSimple PresentPresent Progressive TensePresent Perfect TensePresent Perfect Progressive Tense
  • I
  • you
  • he/she/it
  • we
  • you
  • they
  • have
  • have
  • has
  • have
  • have
  • have
The simple present tense is mostly for a fact or a habit.
  • am having
  • are having
  • is having
  • are having
  • are having
  • are having
The present progressive tense is for an ongoing action in the present.
  • have had
  • have had
  • has had
  • have had
  • have had
  • have had
The present perfect tense is for an action that began in the past. (Often, the action continues into the present.)
  • have been having
  • have been having
  • has been having
  • have been having
  • have been having
  • have been having
The present perfect progressive tense is for a continuous activity that began in the past and continues into the present (or finished very recently).

Future Tenses

PersonSimple FutureFuture Progressive TenseFuture Perfect TenseFuture Perfect Progressive Tense
  • I
  • you
  • he/she/it
  • we
  • you
  • they
  • will have
  • will have
  • will have
  • will have
  • will have
  • will have
The simple future tense is for an action that will occur in the future.
  • will be having
  • will be having
  • will be having
  • will be having
  • will be having
  • will be having
The future progressive tense is for an ongoing action that will occur in the future.
  • will have had
  • will have had
  • will have had
  • will have had
  • will have had
  • will have had
The future perfect tense is for an action that will have been completed at some point in the future.
  • will have been having
  • will have been having
  • will have been having
  • will have been having
  • will have been having
  • will have been having
The future perfect progressive tense is for an ongoing action that will be completed at some specified time in the future.

Most Common Irregular Verbs

The two most common irregular verbs in English are be and "have."

Here are the next 10 most common irregular verbs in English:

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See Also

Parts of Speech Lists 200 Important Irregular Verbs Role-Play Scenarios for English Learners

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