I have come across a few sentences that contain "have had". I would like to know in what kind of situations we should use this combination.


"Have had" is using the verb have in the present perfect tense.

Consider the present tense sentence:

I have a lot of homework.

This means that I have a lot of homework now.

On the other hand, we use the present perfect tense to describe an event from the past that has some connection to the present. Compare the following two sentences:

  • I had a lot of homework this week.
  • I have had a lot of homework this week.

If I only say had, this means that "having a lot of homework this week" is a completed event, either because there is no expectation of more homework, or because the week is over.

If I say "have had", I connect the event to the present, so it is possible that I might have more homework, and I could say something like this on, e.g., a Wednesday (in the middle of the week).

Another example will illustrate the importance of the connection to now:

  • I had a lot of homework last year.
  • *I have had a lot of homework last year. (this sentence is bad!)

In the first sentence here, using had, the sentence is fine. But using "have had", the sentence is ungrammatical, because "last year" is always a completed event that is not connected to the present. But, as we know, the present perfect tense means that there is a connection to the present. So, the sentence sounds wrong, because the verb and the time are contradicting each other.

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    Can't it be future perfect too? "I would have had homework, but I dropped the class." – jjnguy Nov 10 '10 at 14:52
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    Jack, whereas John had had "had", had had "had had"; "had had" had had the examiner's approval. – psmears Jan 9 '11 at 21:36
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    complete and to the point answer...well explained. Thanks! – Suchi Jan 28 '15 at 9:26
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    @cprn: It is not a lack of context. It is ungrammatical because "last year" is a completed time in the past and "have had" must link to the present. With your additional suggestion it should still be "had". If you said "I have had a lot of homework since last year", that would fix it, with or without your addition. – Kosmonaut Mar 20 '18 at 14:54
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    @ManojPandey: This is an event that happened and ended in the past, so the second sentence is correct. – Kosmonaut Mar 17 '20 at 18:01

We might think about a bit of logic. If we memorize phrases, we may fail to comprehend what meaning there is for grammar to bring. :)

Have can be a head verb.

I HAVE a book. (I own a book.)

I HAVE fresh strawberries at least once a week. (I eat strawberries.)

Have can be an auxiliary.

I have HAD this book for twenty years. I keep returning to it.

I have HAD fresh strawberries every week, for half a year. My cholesterol is lower.

Compare the Causative:

I have HAD my copy of the book replaced. Twenty years is some wear and tear. (I've had it printed on demand)

I have HAD fresh strawberries pre-ordered with my weekly shopping. (The shop assistant suggested it.)

For the bit of logic, we can think about a time frame.

I HAVE a book. (I close my time frame on the Present. I consider the Present.)

I have HAD a book. (I open the time frame. I consider the Present and the Past, some 20 years ago.)

I have HAD the book replaced. (My time frame is open.)

I HAD the book replaced. (My time frame is closed on the Past.)

This way, we learn about the structure of language, not select patterns only. If you would be interested, step-by-step:


  • But what's the diff between ""I had the book replaced."" vs ""I have had the book replaced.""? – Pacerier Mar 24 '17 at 23:01
  • @Pacerier: Let us think up a context. Let us say there is a recipe book that many people use. The book gets worn with the use. We could say we had our copy replaced five years ago, and today it looks worn out. We could say we just have had our copy replaced, and the book is as good as new. To use grammar labels, "I have had the book replaced" is the Causative in the Perfect Aspect, in the Present; "I had the book replaced" is the Causative in the Simple Aspect, in the Past. – Teresa Pelka Mar 26 '17 at 5:28

"I had a lot of homework this week." - past simple of have meaning the homework for this week is finished.

"I have a lot of homework this week." - present simple of have meaning the homework for this week, up to now, is unfinished.

"I have had a lot of homework this week." - present perfect of have meaning the homework for this week, up to now, is finished.

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    Hello, jimalton. While this question covers important concepts, and was not closed in 2010, today it would be considered inappropriate for the ELU website (too basic and no signs of attempted research). – Edwin Ashworth Nov 6 '15 at 19:33
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    Just out of curiosity, why even bother answering a question from five years ago that already has an accepted answer? You haven't added any new information whatsoever. – SomethingDark Nov 6 '15 at 19:45
  • @SomethingDark sometimes the accepted answer is good, but not good enough. But I agree this answer doesn't really expand or clarify anything. – Mari-Lou A Nov 6 '15 at 22:32
  • To the anonymous SomethingDark, what is an accepted answer? That question, I think, you will not answer. But I will satisfy your curiosity. It is now the 8th of Nov - I got an ELU newsletter dated 6th Nov in which it has a section entitled "Greatest hits from previous weeks:", in which this article was listed. I blithely linked to it and read all of the contributions and thought that my contribution made things crystal clear - I had not noticed the dates. – jimalton Nov 8 '15 at 15:20
  • To Edwin - you seem to be contradictory. On the one hand you say the question covers important concepts, and on the other you say that for today it (presumably the question) is too basic, but then you seem to conflate my answer by referring to a lack of research. You may be familiar enough with the grammar of English but there are millions of native speakers who aren't, and such questions and answers are insightful to them, as well as me. Also, there is no evident research in the previous answers. – jimalton Nov 8 '15 at 15:30

If you were asked whether you have ever had an accident while driving, you might answer that you had a couple of accidents when you were younger. It is of course the past tense. If you reported this conversation, you could say that you told him that you have had past accidents. It is sometimes called the past perfect tense.

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