General Question

smile1's avatar

Do I use have or has in this sentence?

Asked by smile1 (493points) January 2nd, 2010

The sentence is:
Their identity of who they are has been altered.

Also, how do I know when to use has and when to use have?

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22 Answers

dpworkin's avatar

Identity and who are redundant. The sentence should read, Their identity has been altered.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@pdworkin beat me to it! Have usually applies to singular, has to plural.

Spinel's avatar

It is has, as already mentioned.

However, the sentence is awkward to read. What are you trying to say in the first part?

smile1's avatar

I was kind of thinking, their identity (of themselves) has been altered.
Here is a little more context…
When the boys were reminded of their old ways of life, their basis in which they grew up in, and see how far away they are from it, they begin to lose their reasoning. Their sense of security they thought they had during their time on the island has been lost. Their identity of who they are has been altered.

Spinel's avatar

I see. :) You have a good foundation and core idea, but…

“Their identity of who they are has were once had been altered.”

Even with proper grammar, the sentence is still awkward. I suggest complete revision.

absalom's avatar

Lord of the Flies, huh?

smile1's avatar

@Spinel YEA! that makes much more sense! except for the had part. I dont understand why you changed it to had from has. (apart from being past tense) . I thought when writing of a book (i forgot to mention Im talking about a book), one has to write in present tense?

@absalom haha. yes! :)

Zen_Again's avatar

I, you we and they have

He, she and it has

Spinel's avatar

Ideally, the same tense should be preserved throughout a book, but there is no rule that states that. All tenses are acceptable when writing a novel book. If I recall correctly, past tense is the most common.

I had to change the has to had because I inserted the once were, which is past tense. Tenses in a sentence must match.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@absalom I had it bass-ackwards :-( duh!

absalom's avatar


Analysis in academic essays should generally be written in the present tense. I.e., “The conch represents order.” Not represented. And since we are talking about the identity change that occurs in the now of the novel – on the island – has would be a more appropriate choice.

Edit: Also, for the record, the once were in your sentence does not affect the choice between has and had.

Spinel's avatar

I added were once to the sentence before the information of its source came to light:

“Their identity of who they were once had been altered.” In this context, had makes more sense.

But, in the original, unaltered text, you are right on the money.

smile1's avatar

@Spinel Awesome! thanks!

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@pdworkin, I would suggest your correction if it was a “group identity” such as a family or other group, but otherwise for a collection of individuals:

Their identities have been altered.

absalom's avatar


I’m afraid the context of the sentence has nothing to do with it. It depends only on what one wants to say. And because of the nature of the essay (and the context of the paragraph at large), @smile1 would want to say has if s/he were to use your sentence.

In any event, @CyanoticWasp‘s suggestion is the clearest and most concise.

Siren's avatar

Use has. Has is for singular, have is for plural. It’s all based on the subject or noun.

“Identity” is the subject here, and it is singular.

john65pennington's avatar

Use the word has and here is why: leave out the words “who they are”. now, look at the sentence again. leaving out “who they are” reconstructs this sentence. it now reads. “their identity has been altered”. has is an action verb and have is not. you would not use the word have, like “their identity have been altered”.

Jeruba's avatar

Their sense of who they are has been altered.

flo's avatar

Their identities have been altered, sounds right to me. Her/his identity has been altered. If it is not a person, it’s identity has been altered.

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