I was taking a quiz in which there was a series of question about access to common objects (TV, computer, washing machine, etc.) and the two answers were "have" and "haven't". Is the usage of the latter correct? It felt really unusual and I would use "don't have" instead.


There may be a transatlantic divide here, with AmEng favouring ‘don’t have’. BrEng will normally use ‘haven’t got’. ‘Haven’t’ is also found in BrEng, but usually with an indefinite object as in ‘I'm sorry, I haven't a clue’. With a definite object in ‘I haven’t the TV’ it is certainly strange. In some contexts, even with an indefinite object, it can be formal to the point of pretentiousness, as in ‘I haven’t a TV’.

|improve this answer|||||
  • 2
    +1 But if you wanted to really make that sentence pretentious, you might add ", I have books--you know, the things made of paper with printing on them?" – JeffSahol Sep 24 '11 at 12:21
  • I believe it's also true that many Americans either actually say, or don't got a problem with that usage, which particularly grates on my British ear. – FumbleFingers Sep 24 '11 at 12:38
  • @FumbleFingers: which usage? AmE speakers say 'I don't have any/a ...' (and in very informal circumstances 'I don't got any/a/no...'), and never say 'I haven't any/a ...' or 'I haven't got any/a ...'. – Mitch Sep 24 '11 at 22:26
  • @Mitch: I'm a Brit! You're the American, so you know better than me what you say. But that link above is where Google says there are 183,000,000 instances of "don't got" on the internet, and I doubt if more than a handful of those will be British. Us Brits think Pink Floyd were grammatically daring to pen the line We don't need no education, but I suspect if they'd been American it'd have been We don't got no education. Oh - and we always say "I haven't got a clue" and such! :) – FumbleFingers Sep 24 '11 at 23:26
  • @FumbleFingers: I was just trying to clarify what you were saying is BrE or AmE. – Mitch Sep 26 '11 at 18:22

"I haven't the TV" is correct but doesn't sound very natural. A better sentence using haven't is "I haven't got the TV".

However, it sounds fine in uses such as "I haven't the nerve to sack him", "I haven't the guts for that rollercoaster", "I'm sorry, I haven't a clue".

|improve this answer|||||

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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