To Have | uses

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

To Have – Main Verb

To 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.

To Have – Main Verb

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

have a bath, wash, shower, etc.
have breakfast, lunch, dinner
have fun
have time available
have questions
have a party
have a walk, hike, ride, etc.
have a discussion, fight, argument etc.


Erica is having a bath at the moment.
We’re going to have a party next week.
She usually has breakfast at seven o’clock.

To Have – Auxiliary Verb

Have is also used as an auxiliary verb in the perfect 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: He has been to Georgia twice.

Present Perfect Continuous: They have been waiting for over an hour.

Past Perfect: He had already eaten when she arrived.

Past Perfect Continuous: Jane had been working for two hours when he telephoned.

Future Perfect: They will have been gone for four hours by two o’clock.

Future Perfect Continuous: Max will have been playing the piano for two hours by the time he finishes.

To Have To Do – Modal Form

To have to do something expresses the idea that an action or routine is required of someone. We use to have to do something to speak about our responsibilities in life. This form can have the same meaning as ‘must’, but is generally preferred when speaking about responsibilities. ‘Must’ is generally used to speak about strong personal obligation (For example: I must talk to Peter. It’s important!) Will have to do something is used to speak about future obligations, and had to do something is used to speak about past obligations. The negative form don’t / didn’t have to do something refers to an action which is not required of someone, but possible nonetheless. ‘Mustn’t’, on the other hand, refers to something that is prohibited.

Present Examples:

Doug has to get up early every day.
They have to work hard on Saturdays.
She doesn’t have to go to work on Saturdays. (It’s possible, but not necessary)

Past Examples:

They had to leave early to catch the flight.
Jennifer had to explain the situation to Peter.
I didn’t have to go to the meeting in Dallas. (I could have gone, but it wasn’t necessary)

Future Examples:

He will have to get up early tomorrow.
Janice will have to decide whether she wants to marry him or not.
They won’t have to purchase any additional materials. (They can, but it’s not required.)

To Have Something Happen / Happening – Experiences – Have + object(s) + base formof verb / -ing form

This form is used to speak about experiences that have happened, or experience in general.


We have people visit us all the time.
Sherry had her children playing in the garden.

To Have Something Done – Arrangements – Have + object(s) + past participle

This form is used to speak about something that you arrange to have done for you. This form is also known as the causative ‘have’ because it expresses something which someone else causes to happen.


She had them delivered to her home.
We had Jack promoted to director.

“To Have” – Uses of the Verb for ESL Learners.

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