Has vs. Have: Proper Grammar Rules

Updated September 18, 2020
Have vs Has Example
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It’s important to know how to use the verb to have correctly. But what is the difference between have and has? Read on to find sentences with has and have, as well as to learn the grammar rules that dictate when you should use them.

Present Tense Uses of Have and Has

Both words are present tense forms of the verb to have. The past-tense form is had, and the present progressive tense (or continuous tense) is having. The correct verb conjugation depends on the sentence’s point of view.

First-person, second-person, and plural third-person conjugations that use the pronouns I, you, we, and they require the writer to use have. The same rule applies when a noun or name replaces the pronoun.

Indicating Possession

One meaning of to have is “to possess or hold something.” There are several ways to use have and has to indicate that a person or noun is in possession of something. Some examples include:

  • You have spinach in your teeth. (Second person)
  • I have spaghetti and meatballs ready for dinner. (First person)
  • Noah and Steve have a bicycle they can lend you. (Plural third person)
  • We have no money left for books. (Plural first person)
  • You don’t need another dog; you already have three. (Second person)
  • I don’t have time for this. (First person)
  • They have a beautiful house on the lake. (Plural third person)

Singular third-person conjugations use has. These pronouns include he, she, and it. Here are some examples of sentences that use has:

  • Angela still has a year left on her car lease.
  • He has chocolate ice cream in the freezer.
  • Carl’s roommate has a pet raccoon.
  • She has no idea that they are planning a surprise party.
  • The bird has a nest in the backyard.
  • Letty has so much homework tonight.
  • Your car has a full tank of gas now.

Have and Has as Modal Verbs

When have to or has to shares meaning with must in a sentence, they’re used as modal verbs to express mood. This usage influences the subject and compels them to action in a present tense sentence. The grammar rules for various conjugations are the same as above. For example:

  • I have to get to school on time. (First person)
  • You have to tell me what you know. (Second person)
  • She has to do well at the tryout if she wants to make the team. (Singular third person)
  • We have to work together on this project. (Plural first person)
  • My sister has to stay out of my room. (Singular third person)
  • Your friends have to go home now. (Plural third person)

These examples are usually intuitive to English speakers. Using the wrong form of to have doesn’t sound right, making it easy to identity. However, using proper subject-verb agreement doesn’t stop in the present tense.


Auxiliary Verbs in Present Perfect Tense

Also known as helping or linking verbs, auxiliary verbs join with active verbs to create a verb phrase. When have and has connect with past participles, they form the present perfect verb tense. Present perfect describes an ongoing situation that has occurred in the past and in the present.

Here are some ways to establish the present perfect tense for I, you, we, and they conjugations with have.

  • I have loved running my whole life.
  • You have written a beautiful book.
  • We have worked at the coffee shop for five years.
  • My parents have owned their boat since I was born.

When the sentences contain a singular third-person perspective, use has. For example:

  • My neighbor has lived next door since last July.
  • The school has needed repairs ever since last year’s flood.
  • She has known about the accident since she saw the news last night.
  • It has been hot in California all month.

To create the past perfect tense, use had in place of has or have. Past perfect tense describes a continuous action that is no longer taking place.


Contractions of Has and Have

The grammar rules of using has and have are the same when using their contractions. These shortened words are effective ways to make your conversational tone more casual or efficient.

Contractions of Have

American English reserves most of its have-related contractions for the present perfect tense. The point of view of the sentence, as well as the verb tense, indicates which contraction you should use. Here are some examples of contractions that use the word have.

  • I’ve known that you liked me for a long time. (I have)
  • You’ve been told not to swim in the deep end. (You have)
  • We’ve included a map in our wedding invitation. (We have)
  • They’ve told me how to make ice cream before. (They have)
  • I should’ve paid more attention in class (I should have)
  • You would’ve turned right if the navigation hadn’t corrected you. (You would have)
  • We might’ve missed the freeway exit. (We might have)

Note that the ending -’ve is consistent when the noun is first, second, or singular third person. The rule is the same even when modal verbs like should, would, could, and might are present.


Contractions of Has

Has is not as versatile as other forms when it comes to contractions. Check out additional examples of ways to use has in a contraction for plural third person nouns in present perfect tense.

  • Harriet’s already set the table. (Harriet has)
  • My dad’s bought a new car. (My dad has)
  • It’s been a difficult year. (It has)
  • She’s seen that movie before. (She has)

Has works in present perfect tense as well as have. However, when combined with modal verbs, even third-person nouns and pronouns shift to forms of have. Examples include:

  • Harriet would’ve set the table (Harriet would have set)
  • My dad should’ve bought a new car. (My dad should have bought)
  • It could’ve been a difficult year. (It could have been)
  • She might’ve seen that movie before. (She might have seen)

Modal verbs change more than just the mood of these sentences. They are some of the only instances in which you use have in a singular third-person conjugation.


Contractions to Show Possession

Unlike British English, American English doesn’t typically use contractions when indicating possession, as it can get confusing with contractions of is. However, it is used in possessive contractions when combined with the word got. For example:

  • She’s got a lot on her mind. (She has got)
  • I’ve got no plans for the weekend. (I have got)
  • You’ve got a lot of nerve. (You have got)
  • The water’s got to be boiling by now. (The water has got)

British English extends phrasing to has got or have got. This form isn’t as common in American descriptions of possession, which tends to stick to the contraction form.

More Grammar Clarifications

Now that you know all about the uses of have and has, take a look at more grammar articles that clear up more confusion. You can learn about using much versus many when describing quantities, or when to use can or may to ask permission. Once you know the rules, grammar can be a lot of fun!