Explanations » B2 Grammar Explanations » Have – auxiliary or main verb

Have as a main verb

When we use have as a main verb, it works as any other verb. We need an auxiliary verb, e.g. do, to make questions and negatives and we don’t normally use its contracted form.

Have meaning ‘possess’ or ‘suffer’ (from pain, illness, etc.)

We use have to talk about possession. We need the verb do to make questions and negatives. The past form is had and it’s a stative verb, so it CANNOT be used in progressive forms.

  • Do you have time?
  • I’ve had this watch since I was a child. 
  • I have a terrible headache. 

Have to for obligation

Have to is used to express obligation; usually to talk about obligation coming from others: rules, regulations, etc. In this case, have is also a stative verb.

  • We have to wear a uniform at school. 
  • Remember you have to return the book before next month. 

We need do or another  auxiliary verb to make questions and negatives.

  • You won’t have to show me your credential, it won’t be necessary. 
  • didn’t have to say anything, because they already knew. 

The negative form of have to is used to talk about lack of necessity (NOT about prohibition)

  • I don’t have to get up too early tomorrow. (=I don’t need to)

Have something done

When we have something done, it means that we ’employ someone to do something for us’.

  • I have my house cleaned every Thursday. (=I employ someone to clean my house.)

We can also use have something done when something bad happens to us.

  • He had his wallet stolen in Piccadilly. 
  • They had their house destroyed by the fire. 

Have here is a dynamic verb, so it can be used in progressive forms.

  • We are having the house redecorated

In informal speech, the it’s common to use get instead of have.

  • Where did you get your car serviced?

Have meaning ‘take’ (a shower, a drink, etc.), ‘give’ (a party), etc.

Have can have different meanings depending on the words that come after it. It can mean:

  • ‘Take’ (a meal, a drink, a shower, a bath, a massage, a lesson, etc.)
    • I’m going to have a massage tomorrow.  
    • How many lessons do you have every week? 
  • ‘Give’ (a party)
    • We are having a party next week; do you want to come?
  • ‘Encounter’ (trouble, difficulties)
    •  Did you have any trouble finding the place?
  • ‘Experience’, ‘enjoy’ (day, weather, time, etc.)
    • We had so much fun!
    • We had a wonderful weekend in Los Angeles. 

In all these cases have is a dynamic verb, so it can be used in continuous forms.

  • I’m having a lot of problems with my new computer. 
  • We are having fantastic weather. 

In all these cases have is a main verb, and we need do or did or another auxiliary to make questions and negatives.

  • Do you have a shower in the mornings?
  • You won’t have any trouble. 


Have as an auxiliary verb

When have is used as an auxiliary verb, it normally has negative and interrogative forms and it can be contracted.

Have got used for possession

In informal English, it is common to use have got instead of have to talk about possession. When expressing possession, the verb have is not an auxiliary verb when used on its own, but it is an auxiliary verb in have got.

  • I haven’t got any brothers or sisters = I don’t have any brothers or sisters. 
  • How many computers have you got? = How many computers do you have?

The verb have got only exists in the present tense.

  • We didn’t have an umbrella and got wet. (NOT hadn’t got an umbrella).

Haven’t for possession

In negative sentences sometimes we leave out got to express possession.

  • I haven’t time to do what I want. 
  • I haven’t a clue.
  • I haven’t the slightest idea. 

Have got to for obligation

In informal English we can also use have got to express the idea of obligation. It is normally used to talk about specific obligations rather than general obligations.

  • I’ve got to call my boss after lunch. (=specific obligation)  
  • I have to wear a tie at work. (=general obligation)

Simple and continuous and past perfect simple and continuous

We use have in the present perfect simple and continuous. These are verb tenses that we often use to express the idea of duration.

  • I’ve been writing all morning. 
  • We’ve been married for ten years.

We also use have in the past perfect simple and continuous.

  • She told me she hadn’t been there before. 
  • I could see in her eyes that she had been crying

Future perfect simple and continuous

We use have in the future perfect simple for actions that will be completed at a certain time in the future.

  • In 2030 we will have found the cure for cancer. 

We also use have in the future perfect simple to express the duration of a situation until certain time in the future.

  • In 2020 we will have been married for 25 years. 

We use the present perfect continuous with dynamic verbs to express the duration of a situation until certain time in the future.

  • By the end of January I will have been working on this project for two years. 

Perfect or past infinitive: to have done

We use the verb have in the perfect infinitive to talk about things that happened in the past.

  • I’m glad to have met you. (=to meet you in the past)
  • He pretended to have lost my phone number. (=to lose my phone number earlier in the past)

Perfect modal verbs: must have done, can’t have done, etc.

We use the verb have to form the past modal verbs of deduction.

  • You can’t have seen Tom. He is in Chicago. 
  • I may have made a mistake.