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I am continually surprised to hear people use has and is interchangeably.

The erudite Peter Segal has been guilty of saying:

This song is been written by XXX.

YY is been a producer on the show ZZZ and now lives in California.

Should the two sentences use has since they refer to events in the past?

Are is and has really interchangeable? If so, under what circumstances can one be substituted by the other?

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I believe he is saying "has" and leaving off the "h". It might sound exactly like "is", but it's actually not. Americans also often leave off the "h" in "his" and "her" when these words are not accented. –  Peter Shor Jun 7 '11 at 14:34
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Somewhere between "This song has..." and "This song's..." is something that sounds like "This song is". –  tenfour Jun 7 '11 at 14:37
    
I'm an avid listener of Mr. Sagal's quiz show, and I've never heard such a construction from him. It would be too jarring not to notice. –  user362 Jun 7 '11 at 15:37
    
@Raj - Just to clarify, are we talking about Peter Sagal, host of "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me", or some other Peter Segal? If it's WWDTM you're talking about, then as a long-term fan and regular listener I can affirm that it's the contraction you're hearing, not a mistake; if it's some other Peter Segal, I'd need to hear some samples. –  MT_Head Jun 7 '11 at 16:02
    
I think he's talking about Pete Seeger, the folk singer who adopted some very folksy speech patterns. –  Chris Cudmore Jun 7 '11 at 16:53
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5 Answers

up vote 22 down vote accepted

They are not interchangeable. What happens is that the contracted forms of has and is sound the same in sentences like:

He's been doing that for years.

(He has been doing that for years.)

and

He's not a doctor.

(He is not a doctor.)


In your example, I think he might have said:

This song's been written by XXX.

(This song has been written by XXX.)

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+1, nice point! –  Unreason Jun 7 '11 at 15:15
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I must strongly disagree, since in AmE, we often do what @Peter Shor mentioned about dropping the h from has. When we do this, song has is clearly not contracted to song's, as we do pronounce the second syllable. The simple dropping of the h is far more likely to cause @Raj's confusion, since he probably heard song 'as (which could be easily mistaken for with song is), not song's. –  snumpy Jun 7 '11 at 18:50
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@snumpy: actually the vowel seems to go with the "h", or at least turn into such a short, dark schwa that it might as well have gone. I hear song 'z in both British and American English, quite distinct from the genuinely dropped Hs of Cockney. Orthographically this is still a contraction, it just sounds different. –  user1579 Jun 8 '11 at 20:27
    
@Rhodri all I know is that when I say this song has been written by... and this song's written by... they sound very different (there is enough space that the 'as sounds like a separate word) –  snumpy Jun 8 '11 at 21:02
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"has" is used for the perfect tenses(present perfect), and shouldn't be replaced by "is", which is only for the simple tenses. It is not correct.

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I believe he is saying "has" and leaving off the "h". It might sound exactly like "is", but it's actually not. Americans also often leave off the "h" in words like "him" and "her" when these words are not accented.

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Let me clarify this a little more. When I say an "h" in an unaccented syllable after a consonant, like in "told her," the "h" often turns into just a little more aspiration in the "d", which I suspect is barely audible. It vanishes altogether after some consonants, like "m", "n" and "ng". –  Peter Shor Jun 22 '11 at 0:25
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Like the previous posts have said, in the examples you've provided, is and has would probably not be considered synonymous, much less even equal in acceptability, by many speakers of more-or-less "standard" varieties of English. However there are certainly some predicates which are generally acceptable with either is or has as an auxiliary, albeit with a difference in interpretation. Consider:

  • The tree is fallen.

  • The tree has fallen.

My intuition is that is fallen focuses on the end state of having the characteristic of fallen, while has fallen focuses on the process involved in ending up at the state of being fallen. This alternation is quite limited, being acceptable with a handful of predicates. Apparently, it was quite prevalent in older varieties of English, though I can't really say much more than that with conviction.

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Welcome to Stack Exchange. Please note that your response isn't really directed at answering the question asked by the original poster. While a good insight, you may want to save it for comments or to share in chat. –  snumpy Jun 8 '11 at 20:12
    
@snumpy: I think this question adds valuable information about the use of to be with past participles. We are not slaves to the very specific circumstances a question asker has in mind: if we have information that is related and would be interesting to those browsing the question, I don't see what's wrong with that. I have given this answer an up-vote. –  Cerberus Jun 10 '11 at 13:17
    
@Cerberus, my apologies. I must have misunderstood the difference between answering a question and leaving a comment. –  snumpy Jun 10 '11 at 17:29
    
@snumpy: Okay, I suppose it could have been a comment. But the first half does address the question directly... I think many similar answers are generally OK on this site? P.S. I see you're studying Greek; cool! –  Cerberus Jun 10 '11 at 17:48
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Most people here probably agree that "is" is incorrect in this context, but it's worth noting that there is a certain amount of rationale as to why people do it. And arguably it could actually be 'standard' in some dialects (Jamaican English comes to mind, but I really don't know).

As Randolf Quirk explains in A Comprehensive grammar of the English language, you can see how it comes about by considering, for example

There's a visitor been waiting to see you (which isn't really good English, but it certainly doesn't raise the hackles as much as OP's usage - it might just ellide who's been after visitor).

This easily transforms into A visitor is been waiting to see you without apparently breaking any grammatical rules (apart from having accepted the somewhat 'dodgy' original in the first place).

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