My house (1) has a bath and shower and I (2) have a bath or shower every day. I (3) have to have a bath or shower every day. My previous apartment also (4) had a bath and shower and I (5) had a bath or shower every day. I (6) had to have a bath or shower every day. This was a good thing because my first apartment (7) had had only a shower and I (8) had had a shower every day. I (9) had had to have a shower every day.

Most of that is made up to illustrate a grammar point, namely the various uses of the verb have as an auxiliary verb, a main verb, a catenative verb and an ‘extra verb’.

In (1) has is the main verb, and means, approximately, possesses. In (2) have is also the main verb, and means, approximately, do. We can also say ‘I take a shower’ or even ‘I shower’ (but probably not ‘I bath’ or ‘I bathe’). (In Korean, 샤워 해다 (sha-weo ha-da) means shower do. Many Korean verbs are formed this way.) In (3) have to have, the first have is the main verb, and functions as a catenative verb, meaning that it can be followed by an ‘extra verb’ (there appears to be no official term for this) in the infinitive (V or (as here) to V) or gerund (Ving) form. Here, it means something like ‘I possess a need to have a bath or shower every day’, which we could also say as ‘I need to have a bath or shower every day’. Note that it is probably pronounced /hæf/ and not /hæv/.

In (4) had is the main verb and still means possessed. In (5) had is also the main verb and still means did. In (6) had to have, had is the main, catenative verb and to have is the extra verb. Note that the form of the extra verb does not change – we don’t say or write ‘had to *had’.

In (7) had had, the first had is an auxiliary verb – have (have, has, had) is the auxiliary of the perfect and must be followed by a main verb in past participle form, here had. This causes ESL students no end of worry – it is probably the most common construction in which the same word is used twice in a row. We can, and usually do, reduce the worry by reducing the auxiliary verb to ’d – especially with pronouns but also, in informal speech, with nouns ‘my first apartment’d had’. We can also place an adverb between the two hads – ‘my first apartment’d only had’. The equivalent comments apply to (8). (9) is deliberately awkward. Google Ngrams records had had to have, but the most common extra verb is behad had to be. (9) is also ambiguous. In (3) and (6), the need comes from inside me; in (9) it might be from internal motivation, or external necessity.

It is my experience that native speakers often reduce past perfect to past simple, perhaps more in American English than in British English. (7) might become ‘My first apartment had only a shower’ (or ‘only had a shower’), (8) might become ‘I had a shower every day’, and (9) ‘I had to have a shower every day’ (that is, the same as (4)-(6)).

The next complication is that many native English speakers (more in American English) say or write have got (often reduced to ’ve got) for the meaning of possess. (1) might be ‘My house has got (or my house’s got) a bath and shower’, and (3) ‘I have got to have (or I’ve got to have) a bath or shower every day’) (this is present perfect in form but present simple in meaning) but (2) can’t be ‘I have got (or I’ve got) a shower or bath every day. The same speakers probably distinguish between I’ve got (meaning I possess) and I’ve gotten (meaning I have come to possess). I’d got meaning I possessed is not possible, but I’d got (for other native English speakers) and I’d gotten (for those American English speakers) both mean I had come to possess.

The next next complication is that the extra verb can itself be catenative, and the chain can continue. We can easily say: ‘You have to try to have a bath or shower every day’. In one class about five years ago, I compiled: ‘We must never stop trying to help [one of the students at the time] decide to quit smoking’. These chains are theoretically unlimited in length, but there must be a practical limit somewhere. (I wrote this post because the same kind of grammar point came up two days ago. This is a ex post facto organisation of some of the things I said in that lesson, with some more.)

When I moved to Sydney 21 years ago and was inspecting my first apartment here, I noted that it had a bath and shower. I said to the owner: ‘Oooh, a bath. I haven’t had a bath for seven years.’


3 thoughts on “have

  1. I’m not sure about your contention as to the American English use of got in those sentences. Perhaps it’s because most (all?) of my family and friends attended college, with a high percentage attaining Masters degrees or higher. Perhaps it’s not a common coastal usge. Perhaps I just haven’t been paying attention. I’d say, “My house has a shower and a bath” or “The bathroom has a tub/shower combination”. The addition of got simply makes the sentence awkward sounding to me. Otoh, it may be common in parts of the country with which I am unfamiliar.


  2. That’s intriguing. I did zero research before writing that, relying on general impressions as an ESL teacher, editing, reader/listener etc. Of the first five sites I’ve checked now, four attribute ‘have got’ as more common in BrEng, and ‘have’ as more common in AmEng. But from Google Ngrams, I have to add *relatively* in front of the statement about BrEng – ‘have’ is still used more commonly *overall*, just less than it is in AmEng. The fifth site simply says that ‘have’ is more formal and ‘have got’ is less formal.

    On the other hand, ‘have gotten’ is *definitely* a feature of AmEng. I guess I just associated use of ‘have got’ with ‘have gotten’.

    Note: I’ve typed ‘have got’, but it is overwhelmingly contracted particularly in normal speech and informal writing.


  3. Yes, “have gotten” is absolutely a feature of AmEng and I occasionally use it myself. “For the last 5 years I have gotten flowers for my birthday”. Although, to be perfectly honest, I would more usually use received. For many reasons, I feel more comfortable, more natural, using slightly more formal speech. It’s the habit of a lifetime. Our current not mypresident uses extremely informal speech and writing in all communications, such as Twitter and any off-the-cuff or personally written speeches. The only exceptions are those speeches written for him by a speechwriter. Even then, the writers seem to have dumbed down much of what they write for him. This constant barrage of 4th grade schoolyard language is affecting the way the less educted and more influencable (not sure that’s a word) populace.
    No. Don’t let me get started.


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