Have and has are different forms of the verb to have. Even though they come from the same word, there are slight differences in the way they’re used.
The verb to have has many different meanings. Its primary meaning is “to possess, own, hold for use, or contain.”
How to use have
Have is the conjugation of to have that’s used when:
- speaking in the first person (I, we)
- speaking in the second person (you)
- speaking in the third person plural (they)
Take, for example, the following sentence: “They have two dogs.” Here, have is the correct choice because the subject (they) is a third person plural pronoun.
How to use has
Has is the conjugation of to have that’s used when:
- speaking in the third person singular (he, she, and it).
This example from And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini shows has used with a third person singular pronoun (he): “He has a slender nose, a narrow mouth, and tight blond curls.”
Bear in mind, this use of have and has only really applies when you’re speaking in the present tense (describing events that are currently happening).
What happens when a verb combines with have or has?
Have or has can be used with the past participle form of another verb to create the present perfect tense. The perfect tenses involve more complex time relationships. They build upon simple tenses by combining a verb with has, have, or had.
The present perfect tense is used to communicate that the action of the verb was completed prior to the present. In the sentence “She has played banjo for four years,” for example, has is an auxiliary verb (a helping verb used in the construction of verb forms), and played is the past participle. As in the examples above, has is used with a third person singular pronoun.
This is complex stuff, so don’t feel bad for not memorizing all of these rules … what’s important to remember is that together, has and lived form the present perfect tense.
Another example of the present perfect tense is seen in this sentence from The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: “‘I have invited you all here for a reason,’ Chandresh says, ‘as I’m sure you have surmised by now.'”
In the first part of the sentence, have is used because there is a first person subject (I). In the second part of the sentence, have is used again because there is a second person subject (you).