Have and has are different forms of the verb to have. Even though they come from the same word, there are slight differences in the way they’re used.
While the verb to have has many different meanings, its primary meaning is “to possess, own, hold for use, or contain.” Have and has indicate possession in the present tense (describing events that are currently happening).
How do you use have?
Have is the conjugation of to have that’s used when:
- speaking in the first person (I, we)
- speaking in the second person (you)
- speaking in the third person plural (they)
Take, for example, the following sentence: “They have two dogs.” Here, have is the correct choice because the subject (they) is a third person plural pronoun.
How do you use has?
Has is the conjugation of to have that’s used when:
- speaking in the third person singular (he, she, and it).
This example from And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini shows has used with a third person singular pronoun (he): “He has a slender nose, a narrow mouth, and tight blond curls.”
As noted, this use of have and has only really applies when you’re speaking in the present tense.
How do you use have and has with other verbs?
Now that you’ve mastered the basics of have and has, it’s time to talk about how to use them in combination with other verbs. For every sentence that simply indicates possession (I have a cat), there’s going to be another that uses to have in a more complex way. For example, if you say I have to groom the cat, that’s definitely more complicated of an issue … in more ways than one!
One way have and has combine with other verbs is to describe what could happen (but hasn’t yet):
- You have to call me tonight.
- He has to do his homework before dinner.
These actions have not occurred yet. As before, have is used with the pronouns I, you, we, and they, while has is used with he, she, and it.
Indicating completed action
Have or has can be used to communicate that the action of a verb was completed prior to the present. To do that, you will create what’s called the present perfect tense, which involves more complex time relationships, and combines a verb with has, have, or had:
- We have waited for hours in this line.
- You have finished the job on time.
- She has learned an important lesson.
In the sentence “She has played banjo for four years,” for example, has is an auxiliary verb (a helping verb used in the construction of verb forms), and played is a past participle. As in the examples mentioned before, has is used with a third person singular pronoun.
This is complex stuff, so don’t feel bad for not memorizing all of these rules. What’s important to remember is that together, has and a past participle like played form the present perfect tense.
Another example of the present perfect tense is seen in this sentence from The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: “‘I have invited you all here for a reason,’ Chandresh says, ‘as I’m sure you have surmised by now.'”
In the first part of the sentence, have is used because there is a first person subject (I). In the second part of the sentence, have is used again because there is a second person subject (you).
Here’s a recap
Have is used with the pronouns I, you, we, and they. Has is used with he, she, and it.
- Have and has can indicate possession.
- Have and has can combine with other verbs to indicate more complex relationships with time.