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The person I'm talking to says something like "Did you just insult my sense of humor?"

Then I reply "I didn't say you __ one"

Should I use "have" or "had"?

I'm trying to convey that he doesn't have one but using "had" sounds like it limits it to past tense.

  • The idiomatic alternative here is 'had', but using 'have' (with no implied change in meaning here) is not incorrect. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 15 '15 at 17:50
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It's okay to say have.

Generally, those of us who have studied Latin are focussed on the sequence of tenses in these sentences. From that perspective, either of the following are correct:

I didn't say you had one.

I don't say you have one.

In English, at least, it is fine to use the present, especially in less formal contexts:

I didn't say you have one.

A general discussion of the issue can be found here.

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Both are acceptable and my preference is:

"Did you just insult my sense of humor?"

"I didn't say you had one."

However, if you want to maximise the humour, I suggest:

"Did you just insult my sense of humor?"

"I wasn't aware you had one."

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In language, either is acceptable as it will hardly be noticed. I'm an Englishman and in the UK most people don't know the difference anyway. Generally, if the person addressing you uses the past tense, so do you. If the present, you do too. It's just habitual. There are issues in your example though. An English person would never say you insulted their sense of humour - as a SOH is inanimate. They would say, "Are you saying I don't have a sense of humour?" Or, "Are you insulting me?" The latter would be best answered with a flat denial - you wish to keep them as a friend, right? But the first gives the clue that the best answer will reflect they currently do "have" a SOH. You might say "I hadn't noticed it" and laugh. This implies that in the past you had not seen their sense of humour, but that they might still have one, and is a polite way to make fun of them. Well, it makes me chuckle.

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