This is a rather pedantic question and the only reason I ask is because something sounds wrong to me.

Say someone is giving instructions to a person to write down a name they used to go by but no longer do. Which phrasing is most correct?

Write down any previous names you have.

Write down any previous names you had.

Write down any previous names you have had.

The first one seems most logical to me. The statement is assuming the person may currently have a previous last name. The second one seems logically wrong, as it's saying the person used to have a previous last name (maybe person reverted back to original name).

Changing the context to a similar structured sentence, to my ear using "had" is clearly the correct choice:

Tell the dentist of any previous infections you had.

Here, replacing "had" with "have" certainly would be wrong.

  • I don't like any of those. "Write down any names you have previously had" is better.
    – Michael
    Jun 2, 2016 at 11:45
  • @Michael the same question still applies to your example, if you previously had something it means you've gone back to using it again.
    – Celeritas
    Jun 2, 2016 at 19:52
  • I think this is an interesting question and I'm interested to read the answers. "You have" implies, they still belong to the person ; which my knee jerk thought was this was incorrect. However I guess as 'previous' names they still do belong to the person. My intuitive feeling is it's the last option 'you have had' and that certainly seems to sound the most natural to me.
    – Gary
    Aug 1, 2016 at 12:31

2 Answers 2


Changing the verb in the clause from 'have' to 'use' removes all ambiguity and gives a hint as to why the third of your options sounds more correct to the ear.

Write down any previous names you have used.


Third statement seems correct to me

Write Down any previous names you have had

It statement means list down all your previous names (which are not in use now but are still there in your mind).

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