UNRESOLVED ESL ISSUE No.3: Have vs have got


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In this series of posts I’d like to raise a few ESL issues with you ESL teachers to find out your preference or your opinion.

Today the issue is should students be learning have or have got?

I know that the usual answer is related to whether the person is speaking or writing, have got is used for speaking and have is used for writing.

This is fine as a rule for students, however many do ask me why that is?

Any good answers to share?

2 thoughts on “UNRESOLVED ESL ISSUE No.3: Have vs have got

  1. Interesting. I usually teach my students that the British tend to use “have got” while the Americans tend to use “have”. As an American EFL teacher, I of course, prefer the “have” option as it doesn’t muddle things up by being the odd man out when I have to teach the present perfect.

    “Have you got?”, not fitting into the present perfect time form despite having the identical grammatical structure can be an annoying thing to deal with when students are looking for consistency.

    So the why? I don’t know. BUT, my DELTA instructor told me that a long time ago, sometime between the wide usage Frisian and the writing of Beowulf, the verb “to have” wasn’t so much of a thing. Since many were nomadic and on the move, the idea of just having an entertainment centre at your disposal and a car in the garage was unusual, and not only for reasons of anachronism. The focus was more on whether you got it – whether you have obtained it, and for this reason, “Have you got/Did you win/Did use seize/Did you win/Did you obtain?, pretty much meant, “do you have”.

    I believe that only historians and the most serious of linguists would know whether this is true or not, but to me, this answer seems to make sense.

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