Have and Has

Two words that often get confused in writing are have and has.  They’re two forms of the same word and mean the same thing, but are used in different situations.  Let’s try to break it down and make it easier to understand.

Both words are generally present tense – that is, talking about something that’s happening right now.  Both talk about someone or something owning or possessing something right now.  The difference isn’t the tenses, it’s the context.

Have is the root verb.  Generally speaking, it’s used along either first- or second-person pronouns or group pronouns that include the speaker, like “I”, “you”, “we” and “they”.  It’s also used with plural nouns – nouns that refer to more than one person, place or thing.

Generally speaking, has is used with third-person pronouns like “he”, “she” and “it”, question pronouns like “who” and singular nouns.  There are, however, some exceptions, which we’ll get to.

After singular nouns, use “has”:  Bryan has the money.

After the pronouns he, she, it or who, use “has”:  He has the bottle.

There are exceptions to “who”, however.  When who is followed by one of the pronouns from the “have” list, that pronouns is more important, so use “have” instead: Who have you got in the Super Bowl?

After plural nouns, use “have”: The men have the green shirts.

After the pronouns I, you, we, and they, use “have”: We have $100.

Note that “he and she” is technically a plural pronoun.  While you’d use “has” with either “he” or “she” by itself, when you combine them into one pronoun like that, you end up using “have”: He and she can have it now.

Have” is also used with either “he” or “she” when used in a question: Does he have the answer?

It can be tricky, I’m not going to lie.  I usually remember two sentences and extrapolate from there, and it generally speaking leads me right:

He has it.
We have it.

That helps me remember the difference between the singular and plural use, and that alone makes sure I’m right about 90 percent of the time.

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