Has vs have?

Has” and “have” appear together for the present and perfect tenses of the verb “to have.” English pairs “have” with I/you/we/they pronouns and plural subjects. “Has” accompanies she/he/it pronouns and singular subjects.

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What is the difference between has and have?

The words “have” and “has” share the same root verb (“have”), which means “to obtain, possess, or maintain.” But since “have” is such an auxiliary verb, many English speakers struggle to use it correctly. 

The verb “have” is also an irregular verb, so most grammar rules don’t apply in a traditional sense. For instance, regular verbs form a simple past tense by adding an -ed or -d to its past participle, but the past participle of “have” is “had” (never “haded”). 

Regular verbs also distinguish between plural and singular pronouns in the present tense by adding an “s” to the end of verbs for she, he, and it. But in the case of “have,” we simply use “had” instead of adding an “s.” 

Either way, we use the words “have” and “has” for all present tense forms of the verb “to have,” and their main difference depends on the subject pronouns I, you, we, she, he, it, and they. 

How to use has vs. have in a sentence

To use have/has for the present tense correctly, it’s crucial to know:

  • Have” pairs with I, you, we, and they pronouns
  • Has” always accompanies pronouns like she, he, and it

Outside of pronouns, regular subject-verb agreements still apply to has/have

  • Singular subjects pair with singular “has
  • Plural subjects pair with plural “have” 

Example sentences:

Correct:
“The bike has a wheel.” (singular subject + singular verb + singular noun)
“The bikes have wheels.” (plural subject + plural verb + plural noun)

Incorrect: 
“The kid have a bike.” (singular subject + plural verb + singular noun)
“The kids has bikes.” (plural subject + singular verb + plural noun)

Using has/have with collective nouns is also tricky because they appear plural, but they’re actually singular. Watch closely for nouns that imply individuals vs. a collective, singular group. For example, 

Correct
The jury has a verdict. (singular subject + singular verb + singular noun) 

Incorrect
The jury have a verdict. (singular subject + plural verb + singular noun)

Correct
Jury members have a verdict. (plural subject + plural verb + singular noun)

Incorrect
Jury members has a verdict. (plural subject + singular verb + singular noun)

The importance of pronouns for has vs. have

If we use pronouns like “I” or “we,” we are speaking from the first-person perspective, but if we use “you,” then we’re using the second-person perspective. Lastly, the pronouns “she,” “he,” “it,” or “they” are indicative of the third-person perspective. 

So, in the case of have vs. has, we only use “has” for the third-person singular present tense. Yes, it’s that specific. 

Pronoun + has/have = contraction

Another reason pronouns are important for “has” and “have” involves positive and negative contractions. For example, 

I/you/they/we + “have” = 

  • I’ve = I have
  • You’ve = You have 
  • They’ve = They have
  • We’ve = We have 

She/he/it + “has” =

  • She’s = She has
  • He’s = He has
  • It’s = It has

The same pronoun-verb agreement occurs with negative contractions where we’d typically use “not” after “have” or “has.” For example, 

I/you/they/we + “have not” = haven’t

  • I haven’t
  • You haven’t
  • They haven’t
  • We haven’t

She/he/it + “has not” = hasn’t

  • She hasn’t
  • He hasn’t 
  • It hasn’t 

How to use “has” for the third-person singular present tense

The word has is the present tense singular form of the verb have. We use the term has for the third-person perspective, which means it references singular pronouns like he, she, or it. If someone uses “they” as a personal pronoun, “they” is still a singular third-person pronoun, but it’s used with “have” instead. 

Sentence examples of “has” include: 

“He has perfect teeth.”
“She has a test later.”
“It has a special quality.” 

What is the definition of have and has?

The word have is a verb that transitively describes the act of obtaining or maintaining something, whether it’s figurative or not. Additional forms of the verb have include: 

  • Having” (present participle) 
  • Had” (past participle)
  • Has” (present tense third-person singular)

Depending on the verb tense (i.e., have, has, had, having), we can use the word to describe:

1. The possession or ownership of something, whether it’s a quality, feature, characteristic, relationship, or time. For example,

“I have green eyes.”
“The house has a garage.” 
“She has a sweet disposition.” 
“My graduating class had 240 students.” 
“How much room do we have to walk around?”
“We don’t have time to waste.” 
“He has a certification in CPR.”

2. To experience or undergo something, such as an illness, feeling, thought, an event, the state of completion, or a demand. For example, 

“I had a great time.”
“We had a feeling this would happen.”
“Mom’s hospital had an outbreak.”
“She likes to have everything planned out.” 
“Can you have the assignment ready by noon?”

3. To show a personal quality by one’s character or actions. For example, 

Have some compassion, for goodness sake.”
“She has little patience for tardiness.” 

4. To position something in a specific spot. For example,

“He had his back facing the wall.” 
“She had him in a headlock.” 

5. To receive something from another person or; to host someone for an occasion or time. For example, 

“They’re having us stay for the week.” 
“I have the kids this weekend.” 

Etymology of have

Middle English “have” entered the English language through Old English habban, which is similar in meaning to Old High German habēn

Have as a principal auxiliary verb

The verb “have” is an auxiliary verb, which means it can change tense forms, moods, and perspectives of other verbs. But English grammar also classifies “have” as a principal auxiliary verb because it creates perfect tenses. 

All verbs use a form of “have” for the perfect tenses to describe completed actions in the past or future. For example, 

Present perfect tense: Has/have + past participle
Past perfect tense: Had  + past participle 
Future perfect tense: Will + have + past participle 

Additional auxiliary verbs include “to do” (emphatic tense) and “to be” (progressive tense). The verb “do” breaks down into does, do, did, and doing, while “be” turns into am, is, are, was, were, will, be being, and been. See the connection? 

Special cases of have for English grammar

Have” + noun

When a noun follows have, had, or having in a sentence, the noun can determine the meaning of “have.” For instance, if someone says “I’m having a baby,” the word having means “I’m pregnant” or “I’m in labor.” Additional examples include,

“He’ll have a cheeseburger.” (have = eat)
“We’re having a celebration.” (have = organizing, hosting)

Modal auxiliary verb + “have” + past participle

The verb “have” can follow a modal auxiliary verb before another verb’s past participle to indicate an obligation or the necessity of something. A modal auxiliary verb never ends with -ed, -ing, or -s. Example include, 

  • Can, could
  • May, might, must 
  • Ought to
  • Shall, should
  • Will, would

Let’s take a look at how we use modal auxiliary verbs with “have” for the following sentences (modal auxiliary verb + “have” + past participle): 

“She could have been great.” 
“I would have gone.”
“They might have won.”
“It ought to have been free.”

Common phrases with have and has

Have/has had it

Speaking of modal auxiliary verbs, when someone says they “have had it,” it means they are done with something. For example, you may have heard a parent figure say, I have had it with the attitude,” or “I have had enough.” 

Have oneself

The phrase “have oneself” is an informal phrase that indicates self-indulgence, whether it’s wished-for or provided by another. For example, 

“I’m going to have myself a good time.”
Have yourself a good time!”

Have/has to do something

People say they “have to do something” when they believe action is necessary or obligatory. For example,

“I have to finish my chores.” 
“She has to walk the dog first.”

It’s also common to use the verb “have” when describing how something is certain, inevitable, or strongly recommended. For example, 

“There has to be a catch.” 
“You have to try this cheese dip.” 

Have at” or “have/has it out for”

To “have at” something means to attack, deal with, or manage something. For example,

“If you want my plate, then have at it.” 

Similarly to “have at,” the phrase “have it out for” means “a wish to attack” or that one seeks a reason to fight. For example,

“The sisters have it out for each other.” 
“My teacher has it out for me.” 

Have/has to do with

The phrase “have to do with” involves an explanation of something or connects a cause and effect. For example,

“The show has to do with a family.”
“What does fear have to do with love?”

English grammar cheat sheet: have vs has

If you’re struggling to learn English grammar rules, The Word Counter has your back. Next time you’re writing, use this cheat sheet to help memorize the differences between “have” and “has.”

Verb forms of “have

Infinitive: to have
Past participle: had
Present participle: having
Perfect participle: having had

Contractions with have/has

  • I’ve = I have
  • You’ve = You have 
  • She’s = She has
  • He’s = He has
  • They’ve = They have
  • We’ve = We have 

Negative contractions with have/has

  • Haven’t = Have not
  • Hasn’t = Has not

Which tenses use have/has?

The infinitive ‘to have’ conjugates into many verb forms, but the only forms that involve “has” or “have” include:

  • Present tense = have/has 
  • Present perfect tense = have had/has had
  • Future tense = will have
  • Future perfect tense = will have had
  • Present perfect continuous tense = have/has been having
  • Future perfect continuous tense = will have been having

When to use “have” in a sentence?

For all present tenses, be sure to pair the verb “have” with first-person singular or plural (I, we), second-person singular (you), or third person plural (they). 

Present tense = “have

  • I have
  • You have 
  • We have
  • They have 

Present perfect tense = “have had”

  • I have had 
  • You have had
  • We have had
  • They have had

Present perfect continuous “have been having” 

  • I have been having
  • You have been having 
  • We have been having
  • They have been having 

For all other tenses with “have,” third-person singular (she/he/it) pronouns are acceptable. For example, 

Future tense = “will have” 

  • I will have 
  • You will have 
  • He/she/it will have 
  • We will have 
  • They will have 

When to use “has” in a sentence?

The only time to use “has” exclusively is for third-person singular (she/he/it) pronouns with present tenses. Otherwise, any third-person subject can agree with modal verbs such as will, can, could, would, or should

Present tense = “has

  • He has
  • She has
  • It has 

Present perfect tense = “has had

  • He has had
  • She has had
  • It has had

Present perfect continuous = “has been having” 

  • He has been having 
  • She had been having
  • It has been having

Test Yourself!

Test how well you understand the difference between “has” vs. “have” with the following multiple-choice questions. 

  1. We use both “has” and “have” for which verb tense?
    a. Simple past tense
    b. Present tense 
    c. Perfect tenses
    d. A and C
  2. The verb “to have” is a ____________
    a. Regular verb
    b. Principal auxiliary verb
    c. Modal auxiliary verb
    d. B and C
  3. English speakers only use “has” for the ____________.
    a. Third-person plural present tense
    b. Second-person singular present tense
    c. Third-person singular present tense
    d. First-person plural present tense
  4. Which of the following personal pronouns does not pair with “has” for the present perfect tense? 
    a. She
    b. He
    c. It
    d. They
  5. The word “have” is ____________ while “has” is ____________.
    a. Singular, plural
    b. Singular, singular
    c. Plural, singular
    d. Plural, plural 

Answers

  1. D
  2. B
  3. C
  4. D
  5. C

Sources

  1. Has.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2020.
  2. Have.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2020.
  3. Have.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2020.
  4. Have.” Reverso Conjugation, Reverso-Softissimo, 2020. 
  5. Making Subjects and Verbs Agree.” Purdue Online Writing Lab, Purdue University, 2020.
  6. Simmons, Robin L. “The Auxiliary Verb.” Chomp-Chomp, 2019.
  7. What are auxiliary verbs?Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2020.