General Question

misty123's avatar

Grammar: usage of "have".

Asked by misty123 (407points) October 3rd, 2013

I am wondering about the usage of have. See the below conversation between a native and a non native English speakers.

Native speaker:

Q: Do you have the latest software installed or Have you had the latest software installed?
A: Yes, I do or I have.

Non native speaker:

Q: Have you installed the latest software?
A: Yes, I have.

My question is about the first question asked by a native speaker, why is the auxiliary verb “have” being used like a passive sentence as if the person himself/herself has installed the software? I hear such type of sentences almost every day.

By the same token,

Did you have the latest build(software version) installed? Or I have it(machine) set up

We can use have in causative type passive structures.

EG: I have just had my hair cut.

Anyone help me with this.

Thanks in advance.

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15 Answers

DominicX's avatar

The problem here is the difference between “have” the auxiliary and “have” as a main verb. In the sentence “do you have the latest software installed?” “have” is not an auxiliary. In the sentence “Have you had the latest software installed?”, “have” is an auxiliary, but “had” is not. Same with “Have you installed the latest software?”. Here “have” is an auxiliary as part of the present perfect verb “I have installed”. In the second sentence of the Native speaker, the full verb is “you have had” with “have” being auxiliary and “had” being the main verb.

So to answer your question, in the first sentence, it’s not an auxiliary. It’s the main verb of the sentence. You could say “do you have a big black cat?” “do you have the coffee ready?” or “do you have the latest software installed?” “Have” can be used in that way to show what is essentially “ownership” (the true original function of “have” and whence the auxiliary function is derived) of a completed action, but it’s technically not an auxiliary.

I know it’s confusing.

I have installed the latest software. <—main verb is “installed” with auxiliary “have”.
I have the latest software installed. <—main verb is “have” with “installed” as a participle describing “software”. What type of software do you have? The installed software.

morphail's avatar

“Do you have the latest software installed?”

This is like the causative, but I don’t think it’s exactly the same.

The causitive would be “I had the software installed (by a technician).” “Did you have the software installed?”

But “Do you have the latest software installed?” is present tense, and if it was causitive it would mean something like “Do you generally cause the software to be installed?” but that’s not what it means.

I think “installed” is some sort of complement, as in “Do you have the latest software on your computer?” where “on your computer” is a complement.

You probably know all this already.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Avoiding the use of the passive voice often clarifies what the speaker means,

morphail's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence There are no passive clauses in any of these sentences.

Jeruba's avatar

Sometimes it helps me to look at exactly analogous sentences.

Do you have the latest software installed?
Do you have a table reserved?
Do you have your homework finished?

These seem to me to be questions about state or condition and not about custom (do you usually…) or agency (was it you or someone else who…). They ask: Has the task been accomplished?

It’s the same question as “Has the latest software been installed?,” but we don’t typically opt for passive in a dialogue like this.

Have you had the latest software installed?
Have you had your brakes repaired?
Have you had the room redecorated?

These inquire about state too, but the “having” the task done is implied to be the work of someone else. This “having” here in the form of “had” is the same as “have” in these:

I’ll have my assistant call you.
Let’s have that dead tree removed.
You should have your fortune told.

I haven’t studied grammar as it is taught today, so there are terms I don’t know.

As to the use of the sentences, though, I think the native speaker’s avoidance of the direct question “have you installed” keeps the focus on the state of the computer instead of digressing onto who did the work. The second question invites an answer that is careful to distinguish between “Yes, I did” and “No, my son did it for me”—when in both cases the answer wanted is about the software and not about who did the installing.

CWOTUS's avatar

Looking at the verb “to have”, as @DominicX started, and running through tenses:

I have a computer now. present tense

I will have a computer tomorrow. future tense

I had a computer yesterday. past tense

I have had a computer since I joined the company. present participle (not “have” as the helping / auxiliary verb)

I had had a computer from the day I started with the company until I quit my job. past participle (using the past tense of “have” as the auxiliary verb)

I will have had a computer for ten years and a day tomorrow. (Sorry, but I forget what tense this is: future participle? I don’t think so; it has been a long time since I studied this stuff.)

So especially with the verbs “to have” and all of its tenses and cases: have / has / had / having, be careful whether it is the main verb in the sentence or an auxiliary.

This hasn’t even touched on what must also be very confusing: the idiomatic “have to”:

I have to work today.
I will have to work tomorrow.
I had to work yesterday.
I have had to work all year.

morphail's avatar

@CWOTUS in ESL terminology, your fourth sentence “I have had a computer” is present perfect.
“I had had a computer” is past perfect
“I will have had” is future perfect
But I think @misty123 knows all this.

CWOTUS's avatar

Thanks for the reminder, @morphail. That much is coming back to me now; you’re right.

misty123's avatar

@DominicX: Thanks for the explanation.
@morphail : I thought causative sentences were used as same as passive ones. The sentences I quoted consist of verb “have” and which is being used as an causative verb.
The crux is I am unable to understand the subject and object of the sentence. I was looking at this page number 242. The causative sentences are used with meaning “cause someone/somebody to do something or it may imply the person’s experience”.

As @Jeruba stated, in the sentence, “do you have the latest software installed”? To understand it let’s see the answer of the question. “I have the latest software installed” .

Does it imply the state of the software? – I think yes. And, have is acting as a main verb (present perfect tense). If “installed” is removed, that is, “I have the latest software” , it indicates “possession” of something I have.

What do you say?


I had him come in or I have just had my hair cut. Like passives, these are causative since someone else is doing the action.

I hope I am right!

CWOTUS's avatar

Yes, you do misunderstand, @misty123. “I have” is the operative phrase. It contains the subject and verb. The pronoun “I” experiences “have” ... whatever object you want to discuss, in this case “the latest software”. Software is the object of this sentence.

You are correct that the sentence indicates possession, but you were apparently unclear on the subject and object of the sentence.

When you get to a sentence like “I have just had my hair cut”, now you’re getting into present perfect again (see my earlier examples above, and @morphail‘s correction of the terms that I used). “Have had” is present perfect.

“I had a haircut” is simple past tense.
“I am having a haircut” is simple present tense.
“I will have a haircut” is future tense.
“I have had my haircut”, or in your example “I have just had my hair cut”, is present perfect.

When you want to use “have” as a transitive verb, as you indicate above as “a causative verb”, you want to be certain there is no other verb nearby that have / has / had is modifying. Because if it is, then you’re probably in a “perfect” tense: present perfect / past perfect / future perfect.

I have a rope. That’s clearly present tense, and it’s easy to see the subject / verb / object.
I have used a rope. Clearly present perfect: “have used” is the verb form.

As I mentioned earlier, the verb have in all of its forms is so prevalent in English that you have to be must be careful how it is used and what it actually means to the sentence. Those of us who grew up in the language don’t have too much difficulty understanding the usage even when the speaker or writer gets it wrong and even those who don’t formally understand correct usage, because it is so much a part of how we grew up with the language.

For example, (I don’t want to confuse you now with a whole new set of verb forms), with the conditional forms “would have”, “could have”, “should have”, many speakers understandably use contractions when they speak “would’ve”, “should’ve”, “could’ve” but they often actually say and write “would of”, “should of”, “could of” because the sounds are somewhat similar. Even in those clearly incorrect cases, we understand the meaning (and understand, also, that the speaker / writer is careless about grammar, too, so it puts us on guard sometimes about “I wonder what he really meant”). But that’s just an example of what I meant when I said that “we can understand even incorrect usage” in many cases.

Maybe “I’m a get a haircut” or “I seen his new haircut” would also be sufficient examples, I suppose.

misty123's avatar

@CWOTUS : I know how it is used in active and passive structures. It is used as a transitive verb. You used a noun “haircut” in your first three examples. And, in the last one no doubt it’s being used as a noun, but it does not have the article because it contains a possessive pronoun “my”. It’s absolutely correct.

The main problem I am facing is with causative. The sentence I quoted above, which is, “I have the latest software installed”. Here, I am having trouble finding the doer of the action.

I know it’s me who installed the software, but there’s nothing that caused me to do the action. I just installed it because I wanted to do.

morphail's avatar

@misty123 passive and causative clauses have a similar structure, but they’re not the same.

I think you are confusing subject, which is a syntactic category, with doer, which is a semantic category.
Finding the subject is easy – in a declarative clause the subject proceeds the verb and usually inflects the verb. In “I have the latest software installed”, the subject is “I”.
But the doer of the action (also called agent) isn’t always the subject. Sometimes the doer is not present at all.
In the sentence “I’m afraid” the person or thing scaring me is not present.
In the sentence “the book fell off the table” the person or thing that caused the book to fall is not present.
In “I have the latest software installed”, the person who installed the software is not present. It might be the same as the subject “I”, or it might not. The point is that the person who installed the software is not important. They are not the focus of the sentence.

CWOTUS's avatar

Those are good clarifications from @morphail.

I think the presence of the added verb “installed” is somewhat confusing to you as well.

“I have the latest software.” In this simple sentence the pronoun “I” is the subject, “software” is the object, and “have” is a transitive verb showing the action that the subject exerts on the object. (It might be clearer while you’re learning this stuff to avoid the verb “have” and use synonyms instead: own, possess, obtain, etc., because “have” has possesses those different usages, as you’re seeing.)

misty123's avatar

@morphail : In the sentence “I am afraid”, “afraid” is an adjective, not verb. I cannot say “I am afraid by you”. If you replace “afraid” with “scared” and add an agent, then it becomes a passive sentence. For instance, “I was scared by the heavy rain that night.” Now, “I” is the subject, “was” is an auxiliary verb and a following participle “ed”.

@CWOTUS : “I have the latest software.” Yes, it’s simple present tense.

morphail's avatar

@misty123 You’re right. In “I am afraid” the verb is “am”. My point was that the grammatical subject is not always the same as the doer of the action, even in non-passive sentences.

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