This question might seem slightly odd, since I'm trying to find a single word for a person who 'has' something yet does not necessarily own it.

Someone who has a house for example would be called an owner. However, someone who has a conversation does not necessarily own said conversation, yet still has it.

This is different from similar questions about possession/ownership since most of those questions refer to material things, in which case if one was in possession of something (i.e. a house) which doesn't necessarily belong to them you could simply refer to them as the 'holder' of said thing. And although you could probably refer to someone as a 'conversation holder', it seems inappropriate given the context of what it means to hold something, which still implies possession of some sort.

I was dwelling on the possibility of a conversation haver, however that word does not exist as a noun derived from a verb in the way that: someone who holds would be a holder. (Someone who runs would be a runner, etc.) Why is it that the verb 'to have' cannot be translated in the same way into a noun?

Those two men conversing at the table are conversation _________.

Conversationalists? (this implies they must be good at or fond of conversing, which is not necessarily the case)

Simply 'talkers'? (talking and conversing are not the same thing though).

As I write this I notice that this might also have to do with our usage of the word conversation, for someone who has a thought is simply a thinker, and the same with most other verbs I can come up with.

I guess the term 'interlocutor' could work, however it still does not refer to the idea of having as possible noun...

Any ideas?

  • 1
    Why not rephrase? Not all states of being are covered by nouns. You could say "Those two men at the table are having a conversation" or simply "Those two men at the table are talking" (which would be the most natural thing to say about them.
    – Robusto
    Commented Dec 2, 2017 at 7:39
  • 'Have' is often used delexically as a main verb, as in 'She had a/n bath / drink / discussion about curries / short nap / argument with her mother'. These are idioms, and are fixed to the extent that they resist passivisation (_A bath was had by her_) and, as you say, conversion to an agent noun rewrite (She was a bath-haver). As Robusto says, rephrasing is the solution (the active works fine for the first of my examples, and 'She was a regular bather' or 'She regularly took baths' for the second). Commented Dec 2, 2017 at 7:58
  • "Haver", meaning one who has, isn't very common but is on Wiktionary (sense 3). It might not have made other dictionaries but native speakers would have no trouble understanding a formulation like "conversation-haver". Here is a usage of "conversation haver" from SF Gate.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Nov 24, 2023 at 16:19
  • related: Conversationalist question
    – Conrado
    Commented Nov 24, 2023 at 16:35

1 Answer 1


The sense that you're using have is one of participation:

have verb 4 Perform the action indicated by the noun specified (used especially in spoken English as an alternative to a more specific verb) ‘I really enjoy having a good old blether with my pals and socialise with them when I get the chance.’ - ODO

So you can call the people involved participants:

  • Those two men conversing at the table are conversation participants.

Here's an example of this term used to describe people 'having' a race (something intangible):

  • A cold participant (She has a cold)? An idea participant (He had an idea)? Problem participants (They have a problem)? Commented Dec 2, 2017 at 8:01
  • @EdwinAshworth Those are closer to ODO’s definition 2 - experience (though having a cold might perhaps stray into definition 1). They would need a different word. Maybe something like ‘subjects’ (of an experiment) or sufferers (of problems & colds, etc).
    – Lawrence
    Commented Dec 2, 2017 at 8:23

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