I see this usage frequently on various SE sites:

I've an [object]

This usage of "I've" seems very strange [edit: archaic or poetic] to me as a native speaker of US English. I'm accustomed to only creating contractions of "have" where "have" is an auxilliary verb, e.g.

I've gone

In informal US English, you will often even see the redundant usage

I've got an [object]

Although this could also be parsed in a non-redundant way, as "I have [obtained]."

I don't see the first usage much in contemporary British English, either. It seems to be limited to non-native English speakers.

Is the first usage being taught, or is it an example of overgeneralization? Is it strictly wrong, or is it just unusual? [edit: Given the examples in some of the answers, perhaps it's coming back into vogue. I still feel like I should be speaking in a British accent and wearing a monocle when I say it.]

  • I've a _NOUN is well attested, though less often used than I have a _NOUN or I've got a _NOUN. "I've an apple left over from lunch, if you're hungry."
    – Tim
    Jan 13, 2015 at 22:02
  • @TRomano I'm not looking to get into a discussion about descriptive vs. prescriptive linguistics, but can you be more specific about where it's attested, and whether it's considered "correct"? Jan 13, 2015 at 22:08
  • It is idiomatic: i.e. native speakers say it. I see no reason why it would be thought incorrect, since it's merely a contracted form.
    – Tim
    Jan 13, 2015 at 22:10
  • 1
    In American English, have meaning 'possess' doesn't contract, either with subjects (_I've a Swiss bank account_) or with negatives (I haven't a Swiss bank account). This is in contrast to auxiliary have, which is always contracted except for emphasis. Another reason American English has got for not contracting 'possess' have is that we can already contract have got, with the same meaning. Jan 13, 2015 at 22:22
  • 2
    Do you find it jarring even in cases like “I’ve no idea/clue”? Those sound, to me, more passable in AmE than other contexts. It is perfectly common to contract in BrE in general, though I have a feeling it’s on the wane and starting to become a bit old-fashioned and posh-sounding. Jan 13, 2015 at 22:30

2 Answers 2


It seems to be limited to non-native English speakers.


That my date is near out, I've a short time to live. — The Universal Magazine, 1781.


I've a rich liq'rish old wife for any poor rake

I've a plaice for a courtier, for jokers I've grigs; — Charles Dibdin, (published 1848, but Dibdin died 1814 so this is clearly posthumous).


"It's come to me — I've a right to keep it." — George Eliot, Silas Marner, 1861


I've a notion the best we could do, would be to return to the blockhouse for the present. — Charles Sealsfield, Life in the New World, Or, Sketches of American Society, 1844.

It's certainly not a recent thing, nor restricted to non-natives. (Sealsfield was born in Moravia, but he's quoting an American speaker).

It could of course be something that was once usual, that died out since, as after all people contracted things in the 19th century and earlier that we don't today.


I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore. — Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson & Edgar Allan Woolf, The Wizard of Oz, 1939


But I’ve a third confession — Robert Zaretsky, "Hubris and Envy: The Lehrer Affair, 2012.


If you're thinking of starting something…I've a good mind to smack your bare bottom. — Tom Stoppard, Parade's End (from the novel by Ford Maddox Ford).


I've a feeling I'm going to have to stop in a minute. — Tom Stoppard, "Indian Ink", 1995.

Stoppard is hardly an imprecise writer.

Is the first usage being taught,

Maybe, but if it isn't it'll be picked up anyway.

or is it an example of overgeneralization?


Is it strictly wrong,


or is it just unusual?


  • 1
    While it may be acceptable, it does sound odd to AmE ears (certainly mine) to say I've an apple. Jan 14, 2015 at 2:21
  • +1 for "I've a good mind..." Seems I've heard this expression in a movie, but can't recall whether the actress was British or American.
    – pazzo
    Jan 14, 2015 at 10:50
  • @CarSmack I'm sure you'd be able to find it in plenty from each.
    – Jon Hanna
    Jan 14, 2015 at 10:54
  • @PaulSenzee oh, I've no doubt that plenty of AmE dialects avoid contracting in that case, but there are plenty that don't as can be seen.
    – Jon Hanna
    Jan 14, 2015 at 10:55
  • 1
    @CarSmack youtube.com/watch?v=nIaN9Koa9oM. Also as quoted several places including as use for a book title (an American book, so if they changed I have to I've that'd count as an example in itself).
    – Jon Hanna
    Jan 14, 2015 at 11:04

I've no idea why it should sound strange.

Very often 'got' is, to my ears, redundant -

I've got a book you might like.


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