Uses of the Verb Have

Using a Collocation Dictionary
Using a Collocation Dictionary. Image Source / Getty Images

The verb have is used in a number of different ways in English. Here are the main uses of the verb have for reference, self-study and in-class use.

Have for Possession

Have is used as a main verb to indicate possession of objects, characteristics, relationships or other qualities.

He has three books by Hemingway.
Jane has a sister in France.
Frank has a lot of free time these days.

Have Got for Possession

Have got is also used, especially in British English, to indicate possession of objects, characteristics, relationships, or other qualities.

He's got some friends in Wales.
He's got red hair and freckles.
Alice has got three cousins.

Have - Action Verb

Have is also used as a main verb to express a number of actions including:

have a bath, wash, shower, etc. - I usually have a bath before I go to bed.
have breakfast, lunch, dinner - When are we going to have dinner tomorrow?
have fun - I had a lot of fun last weekend.
have time - Do you have any time available next week?
have questions - I have a few questions for you.
have a party - We're going to have a party next weekend.
have a walk, hike, ride, etc. - Let's have a hike later today.
have a discussion, fight, argument etc. - Unfortunately, we had a fight last night.

Note that have a bath / shower and have a hike / walk is often expressed by take a bath / shower and take a hike / walk.

Have - Auxiliary Verb

Have is also used as an auxiliary verb in perfect and perfect continuous tenses. Remember that the auxiliary verb takes the conjugation in English, so the verb have will change depending on the tense.

Here is a quick review of the tenses that use have as an auxiliary verb:

Present Perfect

Use the present perfect to express actions which began in the past and continue into the present. The present perfect is also used to speak about experience without giving details.

He has been to Georgia twice.
I've been to Vienna a few times.

Present Perfect Continuous

Use the present perfect continuous to express how long a present action has lasted.

They have been waiting for over an hour.
She's been playing tennis since ten o'clock.

Past Perfect

Use the past perfect for actions that are completed before other actions in the past.

He had already eaten when she arrived.
We had already finished the meeting when Tom made his decision.

Past Perfect Continuous

Use the past perfect continuous to express how long an action lasted before another action took place.

Jane had been working for two hours when he telephoned.
They had been playing golf for five hours when it began to rain.

Future Perfect

Use the future perfect to speak about actions that are completed up to a specific point in time in the future.

They will have finished the report for by two o'clock.
She will have found a job by the end of next week.

Future Perfect Continuous

Use the future perfect continuous to state the length of an action up to another future action.

Max will have been playing the piano for two hours by the time he finishes.
The students will have been studying for five hours by the time they take the test.

Have To Do for Obligation

Use have to do something to speak about our daily obligations.

This form can have the same meaning as must, but is generally preferred when speaking about responsibilities. The negative form don't / didn't have to do something refers to an action which is not required of someone, but possible. 

Doug has to get up early every day.
They had to leave early to catch the flight.
He will have to get up early tomorrow.

Have Got for Obligation

Have got to do is used informally in the United States with the same meaning as have to do. This form is fine for informal conversations, but should not be used in formal writing. 

I've got to finish this report soon.
She's got to keep calm and focus.
They've got to keep up with the Jones'. 

Have Someone Do

Have someone do something is used as a causative verb. A causative verb expresses something that someone causes to happen but does not do.


We have people visit us all the time.
Sherry had her children playing in the garden.
I'd have music being performed at my funeral. 

Have Something Done

Have something done is used as a causative verb to speak about something that you arrange to have done for you as a service. 

She had them delivered to her home.
We had Jack promoted to director.
She had her lawn mowed this past weekend. 

Have Quiz

Choose how have / had is used in the following sentences. Choose from:

  • Have as an auxiliary verb
  • Have to show possession
  • Have as a causative verb
  • Have for obligation

Quiz Questions:

  1. She had her house cleaned.
  2. I have to help students with homework at work.
  3. Jennifer has lived in Seattle for many years.
  4. They have two children.
  5. She had already prepared dinner by the time her roommate arrived for dinner.
  6. She has her neighbors take care of her cat while she's away on vacation.
  7. I'm afraid I don't have any friends in Chicago.
  8. When do you have to get up tomorrow?


  1. Have as a causative verb
  2. Have as a obligation
  3. Have as an auxiliary verb
  4. Have to show possession
  5. Have as an auxiliary verb
  6. Have as a causative verb
  7. Have to show possession
  8. Have as a obligation
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Your Citation
Beare, Kenneth. "Uses of the Verb Have." ThoughtCo, Sep. 28, 2017, Beare, Kenneth. (2017, September 28). Uses of the Verb Have. Retrieved from Beare, Kenneth. "Uses of the Verb Have." ThoughtCo. (accessed February 19, 2018).