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I have had letters delivered to me that had abuses.
I had letters delivered to me that had abuses.

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The second is simple past use of had. It means that at some particular time in the past, such letters were delivered to you.

The first is the slightly more complicated present perfect. It means that at undefined time in past, such letters were delivered to you.

We can examine this further by adding specific times:

*I have had letters delivered to me last Sunday

I had letters delivered to me last Sunday

I have had letters delivered to me in the last week.

The first (marked with an asterisk) is incorrect because it defines a specific time, and the form does not work with a specific time.

It is used to describe experiences one has had in the past (and that hence influence the experience with which you speak today), changes over time, uncompleted actions, and things that have happened more than once.

By the way, abuse as a countable noun in terms of insult is unusual. It would be more common to say "…that were abusive" or "…that contained abuse".

  • Thank you so much. Now the mistakes look really embarrassing; the thing is, I'm accustomed to using "Indian" English, and I really want to break that habit. Any tips for me? – Vaibhav Sharma Feb 12 '14 at 16:47
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    There is no need to put quotes in the phrase Indian English: it's a perfectly legitimate dialect, with some 60 million fluent speakers, comparable to the number of Italian speakers. Without Indian English, where would we have gotten such useful words and phrases as "bungalow", "pajamas", "crore" and, my personal favorite, "do the needful"? If you are living or working outside of India, you might do well to learn American English, but only because of its popularity. – Malvolio Dec 30 '14 at 2:41
  • @Malvolio bugalow and pyjamas were borrowed straight into British English rather than via Indian English. Still, you are 100% correct that there is nothing incorrect about Indian English. – Jon Hanna Dec 30 '14 at 2:47
  • @JonHanna -- you mean, borrowed straight from Gujarati and Urdu into the language spoken in Great Britain? My dictionary agrees with you, but I am curious how that could have happened. I'm hoping to be able to slip "do the needful" (and "lakh") into my vocabulary without my Indian colleagues laughing. – Malvolio Dec 30 '14 at 2:52
  • @Malvolio because what else would the British call pyjamas once they had learned about them, when the word the people they'd learned about them from served perfectly well? There was British traffic to and from India since the late 15th century that increased until the end of the imperial period because the British wanted stuff that was there, and when that stuff was something they didn't have a name for, the British took the name too. (Along with Anglicised forms of words derived from Indian languages, like chutney and blighty). – Jon Hanna Dec 30 '14 at 3:04

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