I've been learning English in my company.
We have just started Present Perfect and encountered 1 issue I don't quite understand.

There were 2 different, not related to each other exercises. In one we had to rephrase the following sentence using Present Perfect:

1) I got this job in January.

In the 2nd excercise we had a list of events. The last two are:

2001 - moved back to the USA and went to work at the M&M factory in Montana.

2006 - moved to A new job in the M&M offices in Nebraska.

Using this information we had to make a sentence in Present Perfect out of words

2) have/job/Nebraska

and since/for/from...to. Since the prompts clearly point out to the last of entries and we have no info on what happened to "him" further, I supposed that only 'since' could have been used here.

Most of us gave the following answers:

1) I have had this job since January.


2) He has had a job in Nebraska since 2006

Our teacher said that considering information given in tasks, the 2) answer is correct, but the 1) answer isn't. The proper answer to the 1) is:

1) I have been in this job since January.

To me they have the same meaning and both are suitable. Both cases seems to be related, so I asked what's the difference between 2 answers and why it's wrong to say "I have had" in 1) as we did in 2) example. He said the reason lies in the fact that in 1st case there is "this", more specific, and in 2nd case we have "a", which indicates something general. Therefore, there is no way we can use "have had" in 1)

The lesson ended and he told us to investigate this as our homework. I've spent a great deal of time considering this and searching through the web, but still have had no answer.

He is a native speaker, British, wearing a bow-tie, speaking with that funny British accent, scrupulous and addicted to proper grammar. It's rather odd not to believe him.

But it still bothers me, is he right? Does the presence of this/a has so much impact on usage of have had?

  • 2
    Always be nice to your teacher, but even so, in this case your teacher is wrong not to accept your first answers which were perfectly correct. It's a good idea, by the way to wait for a day or two before accepting an answer! – Araucaria - Not here any more. Dec 7 '15 at 10:40
  • @Araucaria He is nice teacher. I just want to imply how much British he is (I've seen some) and scrupulous. Which troubles me why he said 1st is wrong and 2nd is right. If there would be more answers - I'll check them gladly. Just in this case my brain is going to explode. – Amberta Dec 7 '15 at 10:53
  • I might justify the first sentence as being inaccurate, because today we are in the year 2015, to say that someone has been working or living somewhere since January suggests that person started working/living there eleven months ago. Saying ‘since January 2006’ is more accurate, if you consider the time of speaking. – Mari-Lou A Dec 7 '15 at 12:08
  • @Mari-LouA those 2 are not related to each other answers from different excercises. But in 1st it is wrong to say "have had", and in 2nd it is suitable. Though in my point of view them both are very similar situations. – Amberta Dec 7 '15 at 12:19
  • "I've been in this job since January 2006" and "I've had this job since January 2006" mean the same thing. You could rephrase it as "I've been working for M&M for nearly ten years" OR "It will be ten years in January I've been working for M&M" That will twist your English teacher's Y-fronts if you tell him that :-) – Mari-Lou A Dec 7 '15 at 12:20

I am also British, and I say there is no semantic difference between your answer for question 1 and your teacher's answer. Also, they both have valid grammar and as such they are both correct.

It's possible that in your teacher's variety of English his form is grammatically preferred over yours, but without a wider context to the phase it's hard to say.

The presence of the near demonstrative "this" gives the sense that the speaker is saying it while being in the workplace, perhaps while actually working. In that case, in British English, it sounds a little more awkward (though not incorrect) to use "have had this job". The most usual form in that situation would be "have been working here", but that's further from the original form of question 1, so maybe that's why you're teacher went with "have been in this job"

But really this is splitting hairs and your teacher shouldn't have marked you incorrect for "have had this job"

  • We discussed it in our last class. He agreed that 'have had' wasn't an incorrect choice, though the option he gave is more preferable. He also said that 'have had' implies some complete action, as @Ashish Singh said. Thank you nonetheless. – Amberta Dec 10 '15 at 9:26
  • @Amberta: (Native British English speaker here): It's true that "have had" can imply a complete action ("I have had dinner", "I have had a bath") but it doesn't always ("I have had this coat for ten years"), and it doesn't in this example. – psmears Apr 14 at 14:31

"=" as I use it here means very much the same, insignificant differences meaning-wise.

I have a job now = I am in a job now.

I have had this job since 2011 = I have been in this job since 2011.

"Have" is both a lexical verb (to possess, to hold) and a helper or auxiliary verb. In the present perfect example above, "had" is lexical. The verb "held" could be substituted for "had" there.

The verb "get" in your first example complicates matters, because we cannot use "get" with a temporal phrase expressing duration. You "get" things at a point in time. For the verb "get" to be used with duration, we must use the continuous "getting" or use a temporal phrase that means "after a certain point".

okI got hired.

not ok I got hired since January.
not ok I have gotten this job in January.

ok I have had an interview and am getting the job.

ok I have been getting job offers left and right ever since I read that self-help book called 1001 Ways to Improve Your Resume.

ok I have gotten job offers left and right after reading that self-help book called 1001 Ways to Improve Your Resume.


I would like to offer the counter-argument, and suggest that "I've had this job since January." is both widely used and not ungrammatical, and it means that you started a new job in January. Whereas "I've been in this job since January." can mean the same thing, but would often be used to mean that you had a different job with the same firm, before that.

Also, "I've had this job since January." implies that you won the job in January through a selection process or other hiring method, while "I've been in this job since January." does not necessarily contain the implication that you were appointed at that time.


Yes, he is right.

For first sentence:

We generally use "have had" to tell the instances in which something happened.

For example, "I have had many break-ups since 2011."

If someone is continuously involved with a job for some time, he or she would say, "I have been in this job since January."

Here, being in the job is one continuous event and not many instances hence the use of "have been" is apt here.

Or, if one is a job-hopper, one may say, "I have had many jobs since January."

For second sentence:

The second sentence simply implies that the person has had a job since 2006.

That means "he was never without a job in that period".

Again, there were many instances when he had jobs (one or the other), and hence, using have had is apt.

Right sentence is, "He's had a job in Nebraska since 2006".

  • Ok, but what about the 2nd sentence then? "He's had a job in Nebraska since 2006" It's also continuous event, "he" has worked "since". It's unknown whether "he" works in the same job now or not, though. Shouldn't that be the same? – Amberta Dec 7 '15 at 10:01
  • The point is that in 2nd case the "HAVE" should be used. And in Present Perfect only. – Amberta Dec 7 '15 at 10:16
  • I have edited my answer. I hope I have solved your problem now. – Ashish Singh Dec 7 '15 at 10:21
  • But doesn't "he was never without a job in that period" coincides with 1st example too? – Amberta Dec 7 '15 at 11:01
  • First sentence is specifically saying about one particular job but the second sentence isn't. In first sentence, he has been in just one job and he is still doing it. But in the case of the second sentence, there were many general instances of jobs. Use of "This" makes it very specific. If "THIS" is used it means you are pointing towards a job you're in or you still do, so it is a continuous event. If "A" is used it means it is general. You have been in one or the other job but you have had a job since 2006. The game is between "This" and "A". – Ashish Singh Dec 7 '15 at 11:30

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.