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When to Use Have or Had? (Explained with Examples)

When to use have or had?

When should you use “have” or “had”?

When is it correct to use have, has, or had? Phrased differently, what’s the past tense of have? Let’s go ahead and have a look at the answers.

What does “have” mean?

To define the word, when you have something, this means you “own, hold or possess something”. For example, in a sentence we might say, “he had a new car and a boat.

‍When to use have, has, and had

simpleI have/hasI hadI will have
continuousI am havingI was havingI will be having
perfectI have hadI had hadI will have had
perfect continuousI have been havingI had been havingI will have been having

Compare how the verb ‘have’ appears in the following sentences:

  1. I don’t have that much money on me.
  1. She has a long way to go before she graduates.
  1. We had dinner early.

Sentence 1 is in the first-person present singular, sentence 2 is in the third-person present singular, and 3 is the simple past tense.

In other words, use ‘has‘ for all third-person subjects in the present tense, ‘have‘ for the first-person, second-person and third-person present plural, and ‘had‘ as the past tense and past participle form for all subjects.

base verbpast tensepast participle
have or hashadhad

Has vs. had

Compare how the tenses of ‘do’ work in both sentences:

She has supported me all throughout my career.

I had a feeling something bad was going to happen.

Did and does are simply two different tenses that we use to denote either the past or present time. The simple past tense of do is did for all subjects. The past participle form is done, also for all subjects.

Thus, the difference is did denotes the past, and do/does is in the present (in the first person/third-person singular).

He did a lot of homework today” is the simple past tense, and simply mentions an action that took place at a time before now.

The second sentence with ‘he had done‘ includes the past participle ‘done‘ + the auxiliary verb had, to form the past perfect tense. The past perfect, also called pluperfect, is a form of the past depicts something that happened before something else which also occurred in the past.

Have/had as an auxiliary verb

To have is one of English’s three auxiliary verbs (along with to be and to do). This means that apart from playing a main role in sentences, have also often plays a supporting role in forming aspects of tense, such as perfect and progressive verb tenses.

  • This had been done before.
  • We have eaten here many times before.
  • We are having a great time!

Thus, when ‘have’ is in sentences with another verb, it’s being used as an auxiliary verb.

“Have” / “has” / “had”, in sentence examples

Sentence examples: have/having/has, present tenses
‍Do you have a pencil I can borrow?

I have scrubbed the walls.

The soup has a savoury flavour.

Let’s have a reunion soon.

We’re having a great time!

She’s got the flu.
Sentence examples: had, past tense
We had a great time.

I’ve had several meals at that restaurant. ‍

The ham had a smoky flavour.

In 2018 the party had 10 000 members.

Practice questions: tenses of ‘have’

Complete the sentence with the correct verb form.Options:
1. Jack ___ fun at the party last Saturday.

a. has
b. had
c. have
d. having
2. I’m sorry, but I  ___ to go now.

a. has
b. had
c. have
d. having
3. ___ you ever been to Canada?

a. has
b. had
c. have
d. having
4. The match ___ already started when we arrived.

a. has
b. had
c. have
d. having
5. My boss never ___ time.

a. has
b. had
c. have
d. having
6. They ___ breakfast at 6:30.

a. has
b. are having
c. have
d. having
Select the correct tense the sentence is written in:
7. Dave had passed his driving test.

a. simple present
b. present perfect
c. simple past
d. past perfect
8. I have one brother and one sister.

a. simple present
b. present perfect
c. simple past
d. past perfect continuous
9. Andrew and Sarah have gotten the flu.

a. simple present
b. present perfect
c. simple past
d. past perfect continuous
10. I’ve had time to think it over, and I don’t think it’s a good idea.

a. simple present
b. present perfect
c. simple past
d. past perfect


  1. b
  2. c
  3. c
  4. b
  5. a
  6. b
  7. d
  8. a
  9. b
  10. d

Origin of have

From etymology online on do (v.):

Old English habban “to own, possess; be subject to, experience,” from Proto-Germanic *habejanan.

Learn more about verbs

Types of verbs & verb tenseswhat’s the past tense of …?
forms of ‘to be’seek?
auxiliary verbsteach?
present tensecatch?
future tensebuy?
past tenseread?
perfect tensering?
transitive vs. intransitivedrive?
irregular verbslead?


  1. Merriam-Webster, definition of have.
  2. Etymology online, origin of have.

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