Usage & particularities ‘have & have got’

(Sources of error and differences of ‘have’ and ‘have got’)

How are ‘have’ and ‘have got’ used in English (differences)?

A simple way for expressing possession, relationships, and obligations in English is to use the verb ‘to have’. However, especially in spoken English we can also often hear the alternative ‘have got’. Regarding this, there are some differences that have to be considered such as the fact that ‘have’ is the auxiliary in the phrase ‘have got’:

  • The possessive character in the positive statement “I own a new bike.” can be expressed in the following ways. The difference is the respective main verb (shown in orange in the sentences):
    • “I have a new bike.”
      • Here ‘have’ is the only verb and therefore a main verb.
    • “I have got a new bike.”
      • In this case ‘have’ is an auxiliary verb; the main verb is ‘to get’.
      • Attention: The form of the verb in this sentence corresponds to the present perfect simple.
  • Information: Both variants can be used without any difference in meaning. The same applies to relationships and obligations.

What difficulties regarding ‘have’ and ‘have got’ may occur?

When using ‘have’ and ‘have got’ certain difficulties may only occur in the following cases:

Difficulty 1: questions

In some other languages (like Spanish or German for example) questions can be formed by using the main verb only (that means without auxiliary verb). In English this is usually not possible. In case an auxiliary verb is already present, it has to be used (it would be ‘have’ in case of ‘have got’):

  • Example sentence: “You own a new bike.”
    • Have you got a new bike?”
      • have’ is the auxiliary verb, so the question is correct.
    • Do you have a new bike?”
      • do’ is an auxiliary verb here, so the question is also correct.
    • “Have you a new bike?”
      • have’ would be the main verb, an auxiliary is missing; the question would therefore be incorrect. This often happens by translating from other languages directly into English.
    • “Do you have got a new bike?”
      • This is also incorrect as two auxiliaries (‘do’ and ‘have’) would be in the sentence.

Difficulty 2: negatives

In most negative sentences it is also necessary to use an auxiliary verb. If there were one present in the corresponding positive statement already, it would have to be used in the negative one too. Be careful, it is usually the auxiliary verb that is negated and not the main verb:

  • Sentences with ‘has got’ (3rd person singular):
    • Positive: “He has got a good idea.”
    • Negative: “He hasn’t got a good idea.”
      • has’ is auxiliary and negated.
  • Sentences with ‘has’ (also 3rd person singular):
    • Positive: “He has a good idea.”
    • Negative: “He doesn’t have a good idea.”
      • The auxiliary ‘does’ has to be added and negated as ‘has’ is a main verb here.

Difficulty 3: short answers

The difference between main verb and auxiliary verb is even more obvious in short answers: Only the auxiliary used in the question is mentioned and negated if necessary; the main verb is omitted. The example question can be answered in the following ways:

  • Example question: Have you got a sister?”
    • Positive:
      • “Yes, I have.”
        • Positive short answer; only the auxiliary verbhave’ is used.
      • “Yes, I have got a sister.”
        • A normal answer; the complete information is repeated.
      • not: “Yes, I have got.”
    • Negative:
      • “No, I haven’t.”
        • Negative short answer; only the auxiliary verb is mentioned and negated.
      • “No, I haven’t got a sister.”
        • Regular answer with complete repetition of the question.
      • not: “No, I haven’t got.”
  • Example question: Do you have a brother?”
    • Positive:
      • “Yes, I do.”
        • short answer with auxiliary verb
      • “Yes, I have a brother.”
        • Regular answer; the whole information including the main verb is repeated; the auxiliary verb is not mentioned.
      • not common: “Yes, I do have a brother.”
        • Although this constellation is possible, the auxiliary verb ‘do’ is only used in regular answers if the information needs to be especially emphasized.
    • Negative:
      • “No, I don’t.”
        • Negative short answer; again only the auxiliary verb is mentioned.
      • “No, I don’t have a brother.”
        • Regular answer with complete information and main verb.
      • not: “No, I don’t have.”

Showing obligation with ‘have to’ and ‘have got to’

Besides expressing possession, ‘have’ and ‘have got’ can also be used for showing obligation. Compare the following possibilities:

  • The obligation to leave in the sentence “We must go now.” can be expressed in the following ways:
    • “We have to go now.”
    • “We’ve got to go now.”
      • It is important to know that the auxiliary verbhave’ is often dropped or clipped in spoken American English. However, in written English this is not the case. As a consequence, you can often hear:
        • “We got to go now.”

Further explanations related to the topic ‘have / have got’

The following explanations are related to the topic ‘Usage and particularities of ‘have’ and ‘have got’’ and could be interesting too: