Is "Have Got" Acceptable English?

Perhaps it is.

Bonnie Mills, Writing for
3-minute read
Episode #122

Have got

Today’s topic is whether the phrase “have got” is good English or not.

And now, Bonnie Trenga (author of this week's show) answers an e-mail from a listener, Lee, who says, “A pet peeve of mine is the frequent use of the ‘have got’ phrase, such as ‘I have got a [something or other]’ or ‘I’ve got a [something or other],’ when ‘I have a [something or other]’ is completely sufficient.”

We all have phrases that bother us. I hate it when I see “It was a chill night” instead of “It was a chilly night.” Alas, I get all bent out of shape for no reason. Much as I dislike “chill” instead of “chilly,” there’s nothing wrong with it. Likewise, all four sources I consulted about the “have got” issue agree that this phrase is, in fact, good English.

Added Emphasis

The phrases “has got” and “have got” are somewhat informal and are often contracted, as in “He’s got” and “They’ve got.” Although this expression has long been criticized as an unnecessary substitution for the verb “to have,” it is perfectly idiomatic. It simply adds emphasis (1). In American English, “have got” is an intensive form of “have” (2). For example, if I say, “I’ve got a really big TV,” I’m placing more emphasis on my possession of the TV than if I say, “I have a really big TV.” If you say you haven’t got any money, you’re stressing the fact that you’re broke. Note that you can use “has got” or “have got” only in the present tense. If you want to talk in the past tense about your enormous TV, you would say, “I had a really big TV.” You would probably use expressive intonation to add emphasis.


About the Author

Bonnie Mills, Writing for Grammar Girl

Bonnie Mills has been a copyeditor since 1996.