Verb forms of ‘to have’ in the past simple

(Formation and conjugation of ‘to have’ in simple past tense)

Formation of ‘to have’ in the past simple

The simple past tense of to have is formed irregularly. Despite the irregularity, it possesses only one form in the past (had) in comparison to its present counterpart (where it has two forms: have/has). Moreover, the verb ‘to have’ can function as an auxiliary verb as well as a full verb. Compare its appearance in the following example sentences and the table below:

  • Examples of past simple occurrences of ‘to have’:
    • “When I was younger, I had a lot of hobbies.”
    • “The car we saw had a very unusual colour.”

Particularities of the past simple of ‘to have’ (when used as auxiliary verb)

In British English, ‘have/has’ (which are the forms in the present tense) often occurs with the additional past participle ‘got’ (as ‘have got’) to indicate possession or obligations. Is this the case, ‘to have’ is employed as an auxiliary verb and thus forms the present perfect.

  • Examples of ‘have got’ in the present tense to indicate possession:
    • “I have got a new car.”
    • “He has got two sisters and one brother.”
    • “I’ve got to go. It’s getting late.”
  • In the past simple, however, the form with ‘got’ cannot be used. Therefore, possession with ‘to have’ is only expressed by using the full verb ‘had’; ‘had got’ is not possible. Compare:
    • “Yesterday, I had an accident.”
      • This is a common way to express such information in the past tense.
    • “Yesterday, I had got an accident.”
      • Grammatically, this statement is somewhat inaccurate.

Verb forms of ‘to have’ in the past simple

Demonstration of ‘to have’ when used as a full verb (i.e., main verb):

Positive/affirmative sentences

Person/pronoun Positive Short form Interrogative form Short form of question
I
he/she/it
we/you/they
He had dinner. Did he have dinner?
or
(Had he dinner?)*

Negative sentences

Person/pronoun Negative Short form Interrogative form Short form of question
I
he/she/it
we/you/they
You did not have dinner.
or
(You had not dinner.)*
You didn’t have dinner.
or
(You hadn’t dinner.)*
Did you not have dinner?
or
(Had you not dinner?)*
Didn’t you have dinner?
or
(Hadn’t you dinner?)*

* This form does not occur very frequently but is sometimes used as well.

Further explanations related to the ‘Formation of ‘to have’ in the past tense’

The following explanations relate to the topic ‘Conjugation and verb forms of the past simple of the verb ‘to have’’ and may also be helpful: