When do I use have and have got?

Are "I have the answer" and "I've got the answer" both correct?


I have the answer

sounds more formal and somber, and it is often used as a statement of fact or as a direct response to the questions: Do you have the answer? Who has the answer? etc.

I've got the answer/I have got the answer

is more of an eureka moment remark, something one is likely to hear often in such a place as a college physics common room where students are bashing heads on seemingly intractable problems.

The have got construction is more of a Britishism. In the US, one would be more likely to hear:

I got the answer/Got the answer

  • Is "I've the answer" considered grammatical? – Pacerier May 13 '12 at 21:33
  • I've the answer is grammatical but certainly not colloquial, i.e. it is an expression you would definitely not hear from a native speaker. The contraction I've usually precedes the past participle, e.g. I've been, I've had, I've seen, I've taken, etc. In this case, I've got the answer is more natural. So is I have the answer. – Jimi Oke May 13 '12 at 23:27
  • Thanks for the reply =) Btw, if what I wanted to say is that "I have a habit presently", is there a difference in meaning between saying "I've got a habit of something" and "I've a habit of something"? (is the second one colloquial?) – Pacerier May 13 '12 at 23:35
  • No difference. The I've got... is more of a British construction, really. I've a habit of... would certainly be considered colloquial, depending on where you are, though it's not a construction I use often... If one is speaking fast enough, that could be tough. I'm in the habit of... is something I'm more likely to say, but that's just me. But in this case, both are certainly correct and sound natural. – Jimi Oke May 13 '12 at 23:47
  • But isn't "I'm in the habit of collecting stamps." odd-sounding? – Pacerier May 14 '12 at 0:25

"Have got" is certainly more informal. So if you never use "have got", you will be fine. However, if you want to use "have got", this is how it works.

Have and "have got" are sometimes interchangeable and sometimes not.

When have is being used as a modal verb (or helper verb), then you cannot use "have got".

  • I have been there before.
  • *I have got been there before. (wrong)

When have is being used as a main verb, you can replace it with "have got", but only in the present tense.

This is true for possessive uses of have:

  • I have three dollars.
  • I have got three dollars.
  • *I had got three dollars. (wrong, if you mean possession and not acquisition)
  • *I will have got three dollars. (same as above)

And also obligation:

  • I have to go.
  • I have got to go.
  • *I had got to go. (wrong)
  • *I will have got to go. (wrong)

Lastly, if you are constructing an imperative sentence, you can only use have:

  • Here, have an apple.
  • *Here, have got an apple. (wrong)

A note on "have got" when referring to acquisition: this is not possible in US/Canadian English, where "have gotten" is the preferred form.

  • Permit me to disagree with your closing note. Have got certainly exists in US English, even in situations dealing with acquisition. For instance, one would sooner hear "She's got the skills we need" than "She's gotten the skills we need". You may argue that this is not quite acquisition. However, I would still argue that "I've got it", especially when referring to answers/solutions is not unheard of in the US. Maybe this is a regional thing... – Jimi Oke Feb 10 '11 at 4:54
  • I'm going to disagree with your ban on using had got for possession. "I had got three dollars in my pocket" sounds fine to me, if somewhat informal (as a past tense for have got meaning possession). But *"will have got three dollars" indeed sounds wrong. – Peter Shor Aug 18 '11 at 3:03

I have the answer and I've got the answer are both correct, yes. The latter is more colloquial and informal; avoid it in formal writing. Otherwise, use whatever sounds good to you at the time.

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