Ok so I'm not a native English speaker. So whenever I need to speak in English, I'm confused with the usage of have and had intuitively. I mean I know what they are and when to use which. But when it comes to natural speaking, I always have to think what I want to say in my native language then I translate according to rules in English , and then I speak (which sometime is quite embarrassing for me :D )

So is there anyway I can set mind my to these words naturally ?


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  • Some examples of what you mean would help here. But if it's any consolation, I'd say that most English speakers also have to think about the distinction—at least in some situations (such as perfect vs pluperfect etc.) – ralph.m Dec 23 '15 at 6:50
  • Part1 - Trust me, even I had the exact same problem when starting to speak. This is called Mother Tongue Influence (MTI in short, pretty common in south Asia. I am not sure if it is a common term in other parts of the world). In essence, your brain thinks and processes words in your mother(native) tongue first and then translates it to another language. Problem is that it leads to grammatical errors as the rules vary across languages and importantly, pronunciation takes a big hit! – BiscuitBoy Dec 23 '15 at 6:55
  • 1
    Part2 -The solution is to keep speaking in English, reading articles aloud, taking some short passages in your native language and trying to translate them, with all applicable semantics and rules, to English. Nothing related to your question, but some simple suggestions that worked for me. – BiscuitBoy Dec 23 '15 at 6:56

It sounds like you're looking for a simple rule or mnemonic device to help you remember the difference. I can't think of a really good one offhand, but here's a try...

The word had ends in D, which is the first letter in the words done and dead, both of which suggest the past. So use had when talking about the past:

I had a pet cat.

Next, think of the V in have as a stylized sprouting plant. So when talking about the present, use have:

I have a pet cat.

When you use the two words together, think of the v as birth or new growth, which is followed by death...

I have had pet cats.

Those kinds of tricks work for me, but it is probably a pretty clumsy example for most people. ;)

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