Andy, you are a talented observer of language. While we've covered a similar topic before (I haven't/I don't have/I haven't got--see the comments too), I'm particularly inspired to do this one today as I've just been reading a paper by Peter Trudgill that cites these constructions as providing evidence that BrE is being influenced by AmE--before concluding based on a broader range of evidence that "there is no conclusive evidence one way or the other for convergence/homogenisation or divergence/disintegration at the level of grammar."I was wondering whether you've done anything on your language blog regarding the uses of the phrases "have you got", "do you have" and "have you". I get the impression that "do you have" is the preferred form in America, whilst "have you got" is more usual in Britain. "Have you" is maybe considered rather old-fashioned in the UK these days; I'm not sure about its status in the US however.
To grammatically achieve a yes/no question in English, the question has to start with a verb. Not any verb, but an auxiliary verb (or 'helping verb'). (Verbs that aren't auxiliary verbs are called lexical verbs.) If you have an auxiliary-less sentence, then you usually have to add an auxiliary to fill that beginning-of-question slot. So, if you want to ask if someone wants a pineapple, you have to add the meaningless (in this case) auxiliary do just to fill out the question structure and make it grammatical: Do you want a pineapple? rather than Want you a pineapple? But have can be either a lexical verb (as in I have a pineapple) or an auxiliary verb (as in I have found a pineapple, where found is the lexical verb and have is there as an auxiliary to carry the tense). Verbs that don't need do-support for question formation and negation are sometimes called operators.
So, let's assume that one needs a pineapple (as I do now that I've thought of pineapples). So you stand on the street corner and ask passing strangers for a pineapple (as I'm about to do).
Starting with the shortest of the possibilities we have:
(1) Have you a pineapple?Here we're using the stative meaning of have, 'to possess'. In the English of England*, only the stative meaning of lexical have can be an operator. (In Scotland and Ireland it may be possible, according to Trudgill, to use a more dynamic meaning of have as an operator, as in Had you pineapple for lunch?) Operator use of stative have is, according to John Algeo, "said to be somewhat old-fashioned British [...], but it is hardly imaginable in American" (p. 30). Americans know of it, of course, from the nursery song Baa, baa, black sheep (have you any wool?), but outside of storybook contexts, they wouldn't expect to run into it.
BrE prefers our next candidate:
(2) Have you got a pineapple?
You can say this in AmE as well, but it's not the default way to ask for pineapple. Have got, of course, is sayable in non-questions as well. But considering that the British say it more than Americans, it's funny that Americans are more particular about what it means. As we've discussed before, AmE makes the distinction between have got for possession (I've got a pineapple) and requirements (I've got to go) and have gotten for acquisition (I've gotten a pineapple from the fridge). Many language pedants (or peevologists, as they have come to be known in the trade) on both sides of the Atlantic (but probably more US than UK) insist that have got should be avoided in the possession or requirement senses because have alone is more elegant. To them, I point out some of the quoted users of have got in the OED: William Shakespeare, Jonathan Swift, Samuel Johnson, W.M.Thackeray, Lewis Carroll...
At any rate, because we can say You have got some pineapple, we can ask Have you got some pineapple? Have is an operator in all dialects in this context. What differs is whether you prefer to say it that way. We'll look at the numbers after considering the final, and most AmE, possibility:
(3) Do you have a pineapple?So, in this case, have is treated as a non-operator lexical verb, and do must come in and fill the operator space. This is the way we usually form questions with lexical verbs in English, and it's the preferred way for AmE speakers to form questions about possession.
Now what surprised me in investigating this was how much AmE prefers (3) over (2) (especially since I've seen have got derided as an ugly Americanism by uninformed BrE speakers). Using Mark Davies' Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) and the BYU-British National Corpus (BNC), I searched for 'Do you have [determiner]' and 'Have you got [determiner]'. By putting [determiner] at the end, I got all cases of Do you have any, Do you have some, Do you have those, Do you have a, etc., but none of Do you have to [verb], Have you got to [verb], or Have you got [verbed]. The result:
AmE: Do you have = 3092, Have you got = 99. So 31:1.Now, whether the two corpora are really comparable is debatable, but it's worth noting that COCA is about 20% spoken language and BNC is just under 18% spoken--so it shouldn't be just a difference in spoken-versus-written proportions that is making the differences so stark.
BrE: Do you have = 245, Have you got = 450. So 1:<2.
So, the lessons of today are:
- If you are on a UK street corner, say Have you got a pineapple?
- If you are on a US street corner, say Do you have a pineapple?
- If you say Have you a pineapple?, you risk assault for non-normative behavio(u)r.
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*I really resist writing English English, as word reduplication (as in Was it a salad salad? or I bought a book but not a book book) implies 'the real thing' or 'a prototypical exemplar'. And before you say 'but it is the real thing', which English English are you talking about?