Have or has: which one should you use?

Have or has: which one should you use?

by Laura Jones

Updated November 10, 2022

Wondering when to use has or have? The simple answer is to use has with he, she, and it, and have with I, you, we, and they. If you remember this rule, you’ll pretty much always be right when choosing between have and has. But there are a few extra rules you’ll want to learn to make sure you get the has or have grammar right every time. So let’s learn more about have versus has.

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The present simple

One meaning of the verb have is to possess or own something. When we use this verb in the present simple, it is expressed as have or has, depending on the person it is referring to. For first- and second-person subjects and third-person plural subjects, use have

I have a dog. 
You have three slices of cake on your plate!
We have a huge TV in our living room that we never watch.
You all have extra homework tonight!
My neighbors have a lovely garden. 

For third-person singular subjects, use has

He has two sisters.
She has a hat with a flower on it. 
It has a mane and it roars really loudly. 

If you want to use have or has in questions and negatives, the rules change and you always use the have form and a form of the verb do, even for third-person singular verbs. Take a look at some examples: 

I don’t have any money. 
She doesn’t have time. 
They don’t have a big garden.
Do you have a coat?
Does he have a ticket?
Do they have children? 

“Have got” and contractions

In British English, it’s common to use the phrase have got when talking about possession. It works the same way as have for possession but the sentences often use contractions. The contraction for have is ‘ve and the contraction for has is ‘s. Have got, with or without contractions, isn’t used very often in American English

I’ve got a new car. 
He’s got a huge cat. 
They’ve got lots of money but they’re not very happy. 

To form negative sentences and questions with have got, stick with the have and has difference. Not goes after have or has in negative sentences. In questions, have or has is in the first position, before the subject. 

I haven’t got enough money. 
She hasn’t got green eyes. 
We haven’t got any fries. 
Have you got your wallet?
Has he got his car back?
Have they got a TV at home?

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“Have” as an auxiliary verb

Another way to use have is as an auxiliary verb. Auxiliary verbs are also known as ‘helping verbs’ because they are used with main verbs to show the tense or ask a question. Have is often used in the present perfect tense. But when do you use has and have?

You have finished your homework but I haven’t
Pete has opened all his Christmas presents already. 
We have taken a wrong turn somewhere. 

We can also use contractions when we’re using auxiliary verbs. 
I’ve just eaten so I’m not hungry. 
She’s gone to pick up her mum.

“Have to” as a modal verb

Have to can also be used as a semi-modal verb. It means the same as must and all the rules you’ve already learned apply to it. 

You have to speak louder with Mr. Thompson because he’s a bit deaf. 
Kate has to ask her parents if she can go out tonight. 
They have to be home at 7 pm.  

Nobody has or have?

So many English learners get tripped up by pronouns like nobody and somebody. Are they singular or plural? They are all singular, third-person pronouns so you should use has

Nobody has much money when they’re a student. 
Everybody has been scared at some point. 
If anyone has failed their English grammar exam, they will be in trouble. 
In the present simple, a question would look like this: 
Does anyone have a pen I can borrow?

However, in the present perfect, a question would look like this: 
Has someone asked Sue if she’s coming?

Have or has: when to use them

We started out simply with just one rule, but as you can see, the rules for have and has do get a little more complicated. The best way to learn how to use have and has is to read through the examples in this article and then try to  make up more examples for yourself that will help you remember. Here’s a starting point to get your wheels turning:

Everyone has a blue tongue. 
No one has a blue tongue. 
Someone has a blue tongue.
Does anyone have a blue tongue?

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Laura is a freelance writer and was an ESL teacher for eight years. She was born in the UK and has lived in Australia and Poland, where she writes blogs for Lingoda about everything from grammar to dating English speakers. She’s definitely better at the first one. She loves travelling and that’s the other major topic that she writes on. Laura likes pilates and cycling, but when she’s feeling lazy she can be found curled up watching Netflix. She’s currently learning Polish, and her battle with that mystifying language has given her huge empathy for anyone struggling to learn English. Find out more about her work in her portfolio.

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