do you have/have you/have you got

Dipping into the email bag, we have a months-old note from Andy:
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.
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."

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.
BrE:  Do you have = 245, Have you got = 450.  So 1:<2.
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.

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?  


  1. Here's your comment. Now go to bed!

  2. Hm, which of my Facebook friends was that? (Nancy?)

  3. ObJoke:

    American woman: "And do you have many children?"

    English woman: "Oh, no. Only one a year."

  4. Could it be that Americans have moved away from "have you got" because of some peevologically induced discomfort? -- either because somebody told them it's ugly, or because somebody keeps harping on a hard-to-remember zombie rule about a "got/gotten" distinction.

  5. "Got milk?" would not work as an ad slogan, much less as a much-parodied ad slogan, if it did not come across as idiomatic.

  6. 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?)

    Perhaps "Standard English of England" would be better, because the latter, more dynamic, use is also fairly common in Devon (in my experience).

  7. To my mind this is an example of a distinction that is now dead and gone in BrE. We may still have a slight tendency to prefer "(have) you got?" to "do you have?" but it's no more than that. The days when useful distinctions could be made are long gone. Pity, really. Distinctions like this:

    Hypothetical American walks into a newsagent's and asks "do you have the Times?" -- "yes," they say, meaning yes, it's one of the newspapers we stock. "Er, can I have a copy then?" -- "no, sorry, we've sold out." "Have you got the Times?" is what he should have asked.

    OK, it needs some polishing before I unleash it on the stand-up circuit.

    I wonder why the film was called "You've got mail" rather than "You have mail".

    1. The film was called that because the US version of AOL (a widely used ISP at the time) would say cheerily "You've got mail!" when an email arrived.

      Strangely, my parents had the UK version, which instead said "You have email." No idea why.

  8. Referring to the example near the start of the post, a New Yorker might say, "You want pineapple?"

  9. What about the hymn line, 'Were you there when they crucified my Lord?' That seems to break most of the rules. 'Were' is being used lexically, but not in the present tense. According to the theory, this should only be good grammar in Scotland or Ireland. I'm fairly sure its of North American origin, but to my RP English ears, it sounds OK.

    On the other hand 'what think you?' which one occasionally hears, sounds and usually is, ostentatiously archaic.

  10. Thanks for this one, Lynne. I've been wondering more about "don't" in BrE. My impression is that "do" gets used significantly more than "don't".

    Where, in AmE, I would end a question with "..., right?" (i.e. expecting a positive answer), IrE sometimes has "..., do you not?"

    AmE would accept "..., don't you?", but not, I think, this "..., do you not?"

    Curious to hear a followup on auxiliaries with negation!

  11. @Harry

    "Hypothetical American walks into a newsagent's and asks "do you have the Times?" -- "yes," they say, meaning yes, it's one of the newspapers we stock. "Er, can I have a copy then?" -- "no, sorry, we've sold out." "Have you got the Times?" is what he should have asked."

    That's a really interesting distinction, thanks!

    1. Yes, Anonymous, it is an interesting distinction to me too but for a different reason. I would end the anecdote *"Have you the Times?" is what he should have asked.* and consider it entirely acceptable without the redundant "got".

  12. Sophie Sofasaurus (UK)21 May, 2011 13:55

    Something that bothers me is when a question is asked in one format and answered in another. It's usually this way round:

    "Have you got the time?"

    "I don't."


  13. Sophie's peeve reminds me obscurelf of another auxiliary verb UK/US difference: When asked

    "Will you give me a pineapple?"

    an American can say "I might", but a Brit will say "I might do".

  14. My grade 10 high school English teacher made the point numerous times (enough for me to always remember) that "got" is the ugliest word. Ugly looking, and definitely ugly sounding. "Have got" is redundancy exemplified.

  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. This may be tangential to your original point, Lynne, but what always grates on my (British-English) ears is the question-and-answer sequence "Have you got X?" - "No, I don't".

    To me, "Have you got ..?" MUST be answered with either "Yes, I have" or "No, I haven't". "Yes, I do" or "No, I don't" are answers to the question "Do you have...?"

    It's a feature of that baby-with-a-head-like-a-(rugby)-football character in "Family Guy" (sorry, I can't remember his name) that he speaks with a VERY posh English-English accent -- he always sounds like Giles Brandreth to me! -- and yet he will happily reply to questions like "You haven't got a chance" with "Yes, I do" which demonstrates to me that the person voicing the character must, in fact, be a very clever American mimic ...but one not sufficiently aware of the "rules" of British-English to be able to tell the scriptwriters that such a reply, spoken in an English accent, really jars.

  17. I really enjoyed this post.

    I teach English here in Spain, and my students are all taught to say "Have you got..." For example, "Have you got a dollar?" Now, as an American, I would say, "Do you have a dollar?" but it confuses them, as their English is not so advanced as to understand nuances like this, so I try to say "Have you got..." instead. However, I still don't think it sounds as nice as "Do you have..."

  18. @ Harry

    "You've Got Mail" is a reference to the old (I suppose contemporary to the movie), well known AOL feature that used a clip of a man saying "you've got mail" as an email alert.

    It occurs to me that, in my region of the US anyway, "Got any pineapples?" is an acceptable shorter, more casual alternative to "Do you have any pineapples?" But the long form "have you got any pineapples?" sounds completely British.

  19. I wonder if Tarhoosier's 10th grade teacher saw anything ugly about "get". (I'm guessing not.) Or for that matter "gut".

    Funny, my math [biology, chemistry, history] teachers never seemed to be tempted to make assertions what the ugliest numbers [body parts, elements, presidents] were. What is it with English teachers?

    Well, all right, part of their job is teaching people to write well, even to write attractive prose. But personal peeves presented as gospel: this is an abuse of power.

  20. Just remembering that while in Scotland I noticed people saying things like "I've an idea" or "I've some pineapples". I liked that.

    There's also the (AmE?) "Do you got any pineapples?"

  21. @Dru: The past tense has nothing to do with it. It was because it was an action sense of 'have/had' that was being used (had to put it in the past tense because we don't use the plain present naturally with dynamic verbs in English). So, one could say in (old-fashioned, standarish) BrE Had you pineapple? to mean 'were you in possession of pineapple' but not to mean 'did you eat pineapple'. The verb 'to be' is an operator--but not what I would a lexical verb in the case that you mention--though that's not clearly left out from the negative definition of 'lexical verb' that I've given. It was a cheap definition, I'll admit. A lexical verb has to have a meaning, and 'to be' in its copular (i.e. 'linking verb') use is pretty semantically empty. It's there because English requires verbs to carry the sentence's tense. Anyhow, it is an operator--the definition of operator has nothing to do with what tense it's in.

    @jodischneider: there's a link in the entry to where I've already discussed negation, contraction, and do/have.
    @joelshaver will probably be interested in that one (and the comments) too.

    @Ø: the 'propredicate do' you mention (I might do) has been covered in another entry--click on the 'auxiliary verb' tag to get to it.

    Thanks for the comments!

  22. So is "got a light?" originally BrE then? Or is it relic of a time when AmE was more open to "have got"?
    (What should I say if I find myself on a street corner in 1920s New York needing a pineapple??)

  23. When I was at school, some 45 years or so ago, I was taught not to use "got" in written (Br) English. "I've got a pineapple" was considered vulgar - although we all said it, we weren't allowed to write it. I think, even now, I'd write "Do you have a pineapple?" even if I'd say "Have you got a pineapple?" Although I'd probably be even more inclined to say "Any pineapples?"

  24. If 'do you have' sounds too formal to be natural in colloquial AmE, consider that the do and you are often mashed together into a kind of 'Djuh'.

    "Djuh have any pineapple?"

  25. Harry Campbell's comment is interesting but I think he's wrong. In central England (where I live) anyone who used "do you have" repeatedly in normal everyday conversation instead of "have you got" would I think be regarded as slightly pretentious - ie. trying to talk like a member of the upper classes. Of course in the south of England things may be different (as they often are linguistically).

  26. Personally, I think "Djuh have" sounds strange. But it'd be fine if you mashed it even further to "Dj(h)ave any pineapples?" Adding "got" into that mash-up doesn't work for me at all. Using "got": "Dju got any pineapples?" That's much more colloquial to me and I wouldn't write it in a formal setting.

    Eas' Coas' USA

  27. You're right, Anon, 'Djav' is more likely.

    Djav any pineapple?

  28. The thing that puzzles me about the "have got" construction is that it seems to be a perfect structure without perfect aspect. If I hear "Have you got any pineapple?" it seems to me that the sense is "Right now, at this moment, is there a pineapple in the vicinity?" There's nothing perfect-flavored about that.

    Are there any other examples of have + perf. participle that feel like present verb forms?

  29. I'm glad you wrote about this! I'm a Canadian teaching English as a Foreign Language in Europe and all the textbooks are British so they use 'have got'. This is one of the very first things students learn as beginners and it always makes me uncomfortable to teach it using the book. Although Canadians do use 'have got' fairly often, the context must be different, perhaps more informal. I would say, 'I've only got ten bucks' but usually not 'She has got green eyes and brown hair.'

    Generally, I just stick with teaching my Canadian 'do you have' but point out that there is also another way.

    I come across these sorts of differences (grammatical and lexical) everyday, sometimes having to hold myself back from correcting 'errors' such as 'at the weekend'. So I'm happy to have found your blog!

  30. @Kevin and Sophie

    I agree with you that grammatically a question like 'Have you got a pen?' should be answered 'Yes, I have' but in practice I would always answer 'Yes, I do.' My boyfriend is English so this kind of exchange happens many times a day, and I often notice it after I have spoken. My brain hears a question about possession and quickly answers the only way that is grammatical in my English, 'Yes, I do.' 'Yes, I have' could only the answer to a question in the present perfect, such as 'Have you ever tried sushi?'

  31. The distinction some commenters have pointed out, that "has" implies "usually has it" and "has got" implies "has it right now" is enlightening.

    This reminds me of something ESL Indian speakers often say:

    "This radio is having four knobs."

    I've never been able to put my finger on what's odd about that, but there's an element of the above distinction -- the radio "usually has" (has) rather than "currently has" (is having).

    "John is having a party" means he is doing it now, not that a party is a property of his, like his blue eyes. Though there is also a passive/active element too.

  32. 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.

    I don't know whether I speak for many British speakers, but for me the any makes all the difference. I can say Have you any reason for thinking that? even though I can't say Have you a pineapple? The only explanation I can offer is that the rhythm sounds OK when any is present and wrong when it's absent.

    The past tense has nothing to do with it.

    Well, for me it has. I don't find it entirely impossible to ask Had you got a pineapple?, but it's very uncongenial.

    When I was younger, I would tend to ask a shop assistant Have you got? to mean 'Is there one in stock right now?' but would have ask Do you have? to mean 'Do you stock it at all?'

    Another distinction I used to make. Have you got the time? would invite an answer like Half past two, whereas Do you have the time? would invite something like Well, I can spare you five minutes.

    Nowadays I use do most of the time with have — in questions as well as negatives, tags and straight statements. I still use have got, but not nearly as much as fifty years ago. And I think had got was always rare — something confirmed by other British speakers.

    Another thought on 'past tense'. Although Present Perfect have got seems relatively rare in American speech — relative to British speech, that is — nevertheless Past Simple got seems to be exceptionally common in American song lyrics — I Got Rhythm and hundred more. I wonder whether Americans and Brits always have precisely the same mental picture when they ask Did you get a ticket?

    This reminds me of I gotta vs I have to. When younger, I would tend to use Have you got to go? as a question about a instant imperative. But even then I could say Do you have to go now?, and I wouldn't say Have you got to go or could Fred go instead?

  33. Corny but apposite. I've just heard on the radio:

    TRENDY SEXY VICAR Megan, have you read Marx?
    DIZZY SOCIAL WORKER Yes, it must be this wicker chair.

  34. All this discussion of having or having got pineapples makes me think of the old Vaudeville song: "Yes, we have no bananas!" Or in this case, pineapples. Because I haven't any.

    Hi from California.

  35. pussreboots

    "Yes, we have no bananas!"

    Not a question, but when the sentence is interrogative, the no makes as much difference for me as any does.

    Have you no heart?
    Have you no scruples?
    Have you no regrets?

    or even Have you no bananas?

    These are all OK for me to say, while I couldn't say

    Haven't you a heart?
    Haven't you scruples?
    Haven't you regrets?
    Haven't you bananas?

    just as couldn't I say

    Have you a heart?
    Have you some scruples?
    Have you some regrets?

    [At a pinch, I could just about say Have you some bananas?]

    Have you got no heart?/scruples? etc is OK for me, but I could also say Do you have no heart? etc.

    Similarly, Haven't you got a heart?/some bananas?etc and Don't you have a heart?/some scruples? etc are both OK.

  36. Joseph Welch, US Army attorney to Sen. McCarthy: "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"
    See discussion on Language Log for June 9, 2004, where Geoffrey Pullum notes that this syntax is "rather old-fashioned" in American usage.

  37. TomV

    "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"... Geoffrey Pullum notes that this syntax is "rather old-fashioned" in American usage.

    I'd say it's pretty old-fashioned in British usage — as is that use of 'sir'.

  38. What happened to the goo'rold "Would you happen to have a pineapple, mate?"

  39. "Do you happen to have?" reminds me of my childhood, playing "Happy Families" with my grandmother and making her very cross by insisting on asking "Have you happen to got [Mr Bun the Baker]?" even though she knew we knew this was incorrect. Come to think of it, were I to play Happy Families today, I'd probably still ask "Have you happen to got?"

  40. In the southern United States, I hear, "I've got a banana," or, "I've got a cat named Abe." "Have you got" is used quite frequently.

  41. Interesting. If I had said Have you got a pineapple in school, my English teacher would have corrected me. This sounds extremely wrong to my ears. (AmE Midwest)

  42. Hi Lynnguist, is "doesn't have to have been" the same thing as saying "mustn't have to have been" in "...The word doesn’t have to have been imported into the other dialect in 2012, but it should have come into its own in some way in the (popular culture of the) other dialect this year..." I actually never met the verbal construction "have/have not to have been" before and was kind of wondering, is this specifically AE usage and, if so, can one always use it interchangeably with "must/musn't have been" or do some exceptions apply? Thanks for any help you can provide.

  43. Hi Lynnguist, is "doesn't have to have been" the same as saying "musn't have been" in "The word doesn’t have to have been imported into the other dialect in 2012, but it should have come into its own in some way in the (popular culture of the) other dialect this year..." I actually have never met the verbal construction "have to/have not to have been" before and was kind of wondering, is it specifically US usage and, if so, can it always be used interchangeably with "must/mustn't have been' or do exceptions apply? Thanks for any help you can provide.

  44. 'mustn't have to have been' is not grammatical.

  45. Oops! I actually meant "mustn't have been" and, instead of that, wrote something enormous! Anyway, can "have/have not to have been" and "must/must not have been" be used interchangeably and which expression is most commonly used in the US?

  46. "have not to have been" is odd, which is why I said "doesn't have to have been". That means 'it's not the case that it must happen'. 'Mustn't have been' means 'It is the case that it must not have happened'. As we say in semantics, the scope of the negation differs in the two.

  47. I'm no native speaker so pardon my English if every now and then I spell it out the wrong way. I actually meant "don't have to have been but obviously mistook "Have not to have been" for the infinitive negative form of "have to have been," which I'd have rendered conjugating as 'don't (or doesn't) have to" anyway. If one was to replace "don't have to have been" with a modal, which would be the best fit?

  48. 'Have to' is modal in meaning and quasi-modal in form. I'm not sure why you want to replace it with another word, but I wouldn't want to.

  49. I was actually just thinking to myself which modal would be the best fit if one was to rephrase "doesn't have to have been"?

  50. Elian

    I was actually just thinking to myself which modal would be the best fit if one was to rephrase "doesn't have to have been"?

    Over a year late, but if you're reading this, Elian, the answer is NEED:

    Was that John? Well, it could have been. Actually, Fred says it must have been John. But the description's pretty vague, so I say it needn't have been him.

  51. I had never heard "have you got" apart from a few British films until I came to Asia where many of the students have been taught a British curriculum.

    There are some areas where I've found that the British version of something makes more sense than the American version, but this is not one of those.

    To me, "get", means that you go somewhere, get something and bring it back. "Can you get a loaf of bread while you are at the store?" So, when Asians asked me "have you got a pen?" I thought the question sounded completely nonsensical and found myself thinking "no, what makes you think I went to get a pen? Why would I go get one, when I have one here?" To me, "have you got" sounds like it's completely ignoring the meaning of "get".

  52. Anonymous

    To me, "get", means that you go somewhere, get something and bring it back.

    In BrE the word for that is fetch. Of course, we can use get in contexts where it obviously means 'fetch'.

    You may never have heard I've got In AmE, but surely you've heard I got with exactly the same meaning. Even if Americans have stopped saying it, you hear it all the time in songs like I Got Rhythm, I Got the [place name] Blues, I Got the Sun in the Morning and the Moon at Night etc...

    If you want a really strange use of get, my blues records have wordings like

    I'm gonna get you told... 'I'm going to tell you'
    Grandpa got grandma told... "Grandpa told gramdma'

    There's usually a rhyme with too old.

    Get is also used as an auxiliary in passive sentences — particularly useful to young children explaining away a mishap:

    It got broken.

  53. What about when someone tells you:
    I've got a son of 12 years old.

    Do you reply:

    Have you? or
    Have you got?
    Do you have a son?

  54. Anonymous

    What about when someone tells you:
    I've got a son of 12 years old.

    When I was young I would certainly have said Have you?.

    When I was about 26 I was struck by a Canadian girl's response. (A twenty-year-old woman was always a 'girl in those days).

    ME: I've got a letter for you.
    SHE: You do?

    'How ridiculous!' I thought. The a few years later I heard myself doing exactly the same thing: using do to echo have got

    So nowadays I would quite possibly say say Do you?

  55. Christopher Fairs14 May, 2016 12:19

    While 'have you got a pineapple', rather than 'have you a pineapple' is very common in Br. English, incorporating other words into the question would render it slightly less stilted viz. 'have you any pineapples today?'

  56. I think Irish / Ulster English might be nearer AmE than English English. A colleague (EFL teacher) used to surprise me at first by answering "Have you got?" with "No, I don't." Any thoughts on that?

  57. Thanks! that was very clear. English is my second language. I was taught British English in school and then moved in US. Very confusing....:-) I can't wait to show it to my husband (American) who always bitches about "I have got" being pleonastic (not that he knows what pleonastic means! LOL)

  58. I find the pineapple example slightly different, because it's food. And 'have' can mean 'eat' when you're talking about food. One thing I would like to add (American authors take note!) is that I have never, ever heard an English person say 'gotten' in any circumstance. Here in NZ I hear most often the English way 'Have you got a pen?' ;' has got a meeting at three thirty' ; 'I've got to go' ; 'It got soaked.'

    1. Watch last week’s Blue Peter. You’ll hear a lot of English ‘gotten’. ;)


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