‘Has' vs. 'Have': What's the Difference?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on November 23, 2022

If you’ve seen ‘has’ vs. ‘have' being used interchangeably and aren’t sure which one you should use, read on. This article will help clarify the difference between the two so that you’ll no longer confuse them.

In short:

  • ‘Has’ and ‘have’ are both conjugated forms of the verb ‘to have.
  • Use ‘has’ with ‘she,’ ‘he,’ and ‘it’ and ‘have’ with all the others.

What is the Difference Between ‘Has’ Vs. ‘Have’?

‘Has’ and ‘have’ are two different forms of the verb ‘to have, and are both in the present indefinite tense.

‘Has’ should be used with the third person singular pronouns, which are ‘he,’ ‘she,’ and ‘it.’

‘Have’ should be used with the following pronouns:

  • First-person singular - I
  • Second person singular - you
  • First-person plural - we
  • Second person plural - you
  • Third person plural - they

Here are some examples of both ‘has’ and ‘have’ used in a sentence:

I have a black Ford Focus.

Do you have time for coffee?

We have enough evidence to prosecute.

All you have left is each other.

Will they have everything ready by tomorrow?

When to Use ‘Has’ Vs. ‘Have’

Now that you know what these two words mean, let’s learn when to use ‘has’ vs. ‘have.’ There are several different situations when it’s appropriate. Let’s review those.

To Indicate Possession

The simplest instance in which to use ‘has’ and ‘have’ is to indicate possession. To do this, you’ll use the present indefinite. You use the pronoun + ‘has’ / ‘have.’

For example:

You have beautiful eyes.

Because the sentence above uses the pronoun ‘you,’ which is the second person singular, you use ‘have.’

Here’s an example with ‘has’:

She has a great job.

Here we’ve used the pronoun ‘she,’ which is the third person singular; therefore, we use ‘has.’

To Indicate Obligation

You can also pair ‘has’ or ‘have’ with the word ‘to’ to talk about an obligation. For example:

I can’t meet you tomorrow; I have to do some housework.

She has to hand in her essay on Friday.

You have to see the latest James Bond movie; it’s fantastic!

In all of these sentences, there’s an implied obligation to do something. The third sentence demonstrates a common way to express a recommendation. It makes it sound like an order, but it’s perfectly okay to say this to friends; they will know what you mean.

Again, the usual rule around whether to use ‘has’ or ‘have’ applies: it depends on the pronoun.

How to Use ‘Has’ Vs. ‘Have’ With Other Verbs

‘Has’ and ‘have,’ or the verb ‘to be’ in general, can be used alongside other verbs to create even more meanings. Let’s learn a bit more about those.

‘Has’ and ‘Have’ as Auxiliary Verbs

‘To have’ is an auxiliary verb, which means you can pair it with another verb to make other tenses.

Present Perfect Tense

You can create the present perfect tense using ‘has’ or ‘have’ + the main verb’s participle. Let’s have a look at some examples:

I have finished my new book.

It has been a long time since I saw you last.

We have missed you.

All these sentences indicate something that started in the past and continues to have an effect today.

Present Perfect Continuous

You can also create the present perfect continuous with the use of ‘has’ or ‘have + been + the main verb’s present participle. For example:

I have been rooting for you.

How many years has he been working here?

Maria and John have been talking about moving.

‘Has’ and ‘Have’ with Modal Verbs

There’s one more rule you need to know about using the verb ‘to have,’ which is when using it with modal verbs. Modal verbs express likelihood, ability, permission, or obligation.

Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Should
  • Would
  • Could
  • Shall
  • Will
  • May
  • Might
  • Can

One thing you need to know is that when using the verb ‘to have’ with a modal verb, you must always use ‘have.’

It’s never suitable to use ‘has.’ Let’s have a look at some examples.

You should have asked me before you borrowed my sweater.

Why did we go this way when we could have gone that way?

She might have been better off taking a cab.

Notice how in the final example, despite the subject being ‘she,’ the third person singular (when we would usually use ‘has’), we still use ‘have’ because it’s paired with a modal verb.

Contractions That Use Has/Have

Have you ever heard of contractions? They’re a unique form of a word that combines two separate words into one to make them shorter.

There’s a long list of contractions commonly used in the English language. We won’t go over all of them here; that’s a topic for another day. However, we will review the ones that shorten the verbs ‘has’ and ‘have.’

Here are the positive ones:

  • I have → I’ve
  • You have → you’ve
  • He / she / it has → He’s / she’s / it’s
  • We have → we’ve
  • They have → they’ve

And here are the negative ones:

  • I have not → I haven’t
  • You have not → you haven’t
  • He / she / it has not → He hasn’t / she hasn’t / it hasn’t
  • We have not → we haven’t
  • They have not → they haven’t

You can use these contractions in any situation where you use ‘has’ and ‘have.’ Here are some examples in a sentence:

She’s got the most patience out of all of us.

I’m glad to hear that you’ve been feeling better lately.

You’ve waited long enough; I'll show you now.

Just remember to refrain from using contractions in formal settings.

Concluding Thoughts on ‘Has’ vs. ‘Have’

I hope that you now feel more confident in regard to your usage of ‘has’ and ‘have’ and the circumstances under which you can use them.

To summarize, always use ‘has’ with the pronouns ‘it,’ ‘she,’ and ‘he’ and use ‘have’ with the others, except when dealing with modal verbs. In that case, always use ‘have.’

If you’d like to learn about more confusing words, such as whether to use ‘has been,’ ‘have been,’ or ‘had been,’ head to our blog.

We encourage you to share this article on Twitter and Facebook. Just click those two links - you'll see why.

It's important to share the news to spread the truth. Most people won't.

Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

Add new comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

WritingTips.org Newsletter
Receive information on
new articles posted, important topics, and tips.
Join Now
We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.