Which should we use: “have” or “have got”?

Learners often want to know if have and have got are the same. They want to know which of the two they should use and if they are interchangeable. ”Can we use either one of them whenever we want?” they ask.

The answer is that have and have got are the same in meaning when we want to express possession of something. And, yes, they are very often interchangeable.

There are, however, some important differences in grammar and usage between have and have got.

This is what you should remember if you decide to use have got:

1. Have got is for spoken English

If you are writing an informal message to your friends—on Facebook, for example—have got is fine.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with using have instead of have got in spoken English.

2. Use contractions with have got

If you want to use have got when you speak, remember that you must use contractions (short forms) where possible. Don’t use the full forms. You should say:

  • I’ve got
  • I haven’t got
  • he’s got
  • he hasn’t got, etc.

Some more examples of contractions with have got are:

we’ve got; we haven’t got; everyone’s got; it’s got; it hasn’t got; they’ve got, etc.

3. Different question and negative forms

With have got we don’t use helping verbs such as do and don’t to form questions and negatives.

For questions, we simply invert the subject and have or has, as follows:

positive: you’ve got
question: have you got?
positive: he’s got
question: has he got?

For negatives, we put not (n’t) after have or has, as follows:

positive: you’ve got
negative: you haven’t got
positive: she’s got
negativeshe hasn’t got.

4. Have got only in the present

Have got only exists in the present simple tense. We don’t use it in the continuous, past or future tenses.

present simple tense: He’s got a problem.
past simple tense: He had a problem.
future simple: He’ll have a problem.

5. When we cannot use have got

When have is a substitute word for another verb, we cannot interchange it with have got. For example, instead of take a shower we sometimes say have a shower, or instead of eat lunch we say have lunch. In these cases, we cannot use have got:

  • I have lunch at 12 o’clock.
    I’ve got lunch
  • I have a shower every day.
    I’ve got a shower

If we say ”I’ve got a shower”, we are saying that we own a shower or that there is a shower in the house.

Stuart is an English teacher and runs the Speakspeak website. He currently lives in Prague and has been teaching for over 20 years. See all posts by Stuart

19 Comments

  1. Raj - January 16, 2012, 12:49 pm Reply

    Hi Stuart, Really awesome. I became the regular visitor and it is helping me a lot. Thanks so much for your all the topics that you have covered. It would be very good if we could also get the audio/video version for all the topics that you would cover here. Hope, you will consider this suggestion.

    Regards,
    Raj

    • Stuart Cook - January 16, 2012, 1:01 pm Reply

      Thanks for visiting, Raj. An audio version is definitely something to consider.

  2. brice - February 4, 2013, 7:51 am Reply

    merci, it helped a lot

  3. juliana - March 5, 2013, 3:37 pm Reply

    Hello Stuart.
    My name is Juliana and I work at Padre Anchieta Foundation in São Paulo, Brazil. We are interested to use one of your english material. Please, answer me as soon as possible than we can talk better.
    Best regards.
    Juliana Mingoti Silva

  4. maisoon - March 23, 2013, 7:59 pm Reply

    thank you so much

  5. ali - September 8, 2013, 5:34 am Reply

    Thank you so much

  6. Saeed - October 4, 2013, 9:20 am Reply

    Excuse me,
    Can we say that have/has got is used in British English? Thanks a lot.

    • Stuart Cook - October 4, 2013, 2:29 pm Reply

      Saeed,

      It seems that have got and has got are more common in British English than in American English. That said, they are not used only in British English. Hopefully some AmE speakers will leave a comment here and give us some examples of when they prefer I have to I’ve got.

  7. Saeed - October 4, 2013, 9:25 am Reply

    Dear Stuart,
    Is there any difference between get past and get through? Thanks.

  8. bota - March 15, 2014, 4:40 pm Reply

    thanks a lot

  9. safaa - March 17, 2014, 2:11 am Reply

    thanks, it’s a great note

  10. ayseguldemirbas - June 9, 2014, 12:23 pm Reply

    I understand now. Thank you so much sir.

  11. jinan - December 3, 2014, 7:31 am Reply

    thank you sir so much

  12. G. Donald Hamilton - May 13, 2015, 7:43 pm Reply

    Should this not be about have and have gotten – tense is thus correct. got is from the presence-tense where have and gotten are both about past-tense!!!
    there would not be a have got as the tenses are wrong
    I have got or I have gotten — figure it out!

    • Stuart Cook - May 15, 2015, 8:50 pm Reply

      The point of the post is to differentiate between ‘have’ and ‘have got’: both present tense, both referring to possession.
      ‘Have gotten’ (AmE – and not used in the UK, by the way) is present perfect, and refers to having received something. I think it needs a post of its own 🙂

  13. Elena - November 25, 2015, 12:40 am Reply

    Thank you so much, I am learning English and this was difficult for me to understand. Thank you for your help!

  14. Anonymous - May 8, 2016, 1:43 am Reply

    Can we say ” have you got your shower?”

  15. mariana - May 18, 2016, 6:38 pm Reply

    Dear, can we say “I’ve cousins”?
    Thanks a lot

  16. Ahmed - July 18, 2016, 11:34 pm Reply

    Thanks Stuart! You have made it very easy 🙂

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