I saw someone said "Had you anyone specific in mind" in an old English drama. How am I supposed to understand this sentence?

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    'Have' used as a main verb ('possess' or near) resists inversion for the interrogative, but this example is perfectly idiomatic. 'I had a specific person in mind' ... 'Did you have anyone specific in mind?' or 'Had you anyone specific in mind?' // 'I had a bicycle' ... 'Did you have a bicycle?' not 'Had you a bicycle?' (though 'Had you a bicycle you could have used?' works in 'BrE').The cases where do-support is not needed occur fairly irregularly. 'Have you (got) a light?' – Edwin Ashworth Aug 18 at 14:59

The answer is in the context. In British English, it is possible to use the lexical form of the verb "have," with its meaning of "possession," as an operator that can be used in the context of a question. For this reason, you can, instead of inserting the auxiliary "do," just use the verb "have" to introduce a question. The meaning of the question is "Did you have anyone specific in mind?" It has nothing to do with the subjunctive mood. This usage is, however, not very common today, which is why it sounds a bit off. Source: Quirk, R. et al (1972) A Grammar of Contemporary English, Longman Group Limited: London.

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    "Had you a good time?"??? Never acceptable. // "Had you anyone specific in mind?" Totally acceptable, if a little formal. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 18 at 15:05
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    You don't possess a good time, you experience it. – Ani Aug 18 at 15:07
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    "Had you a broken leg / goldfish / beard?" has always sounded unacceptable to my ('BrE?') ears, though 'padding' renders idiomaticity ("Had you a beard at the time?") – Edwin Ashworth Aug 18 at 15:12
  • These are not my words, but those of grammarians. I added my source, and here I'll quote them. "There is [...] a transitive lexical verb HAVE which in some uses can be constructed either as an auxiliary (without DO-periphrasis) or as a lexical verb (with DO-periphrasis). In a stative sense of possession HAVE is often (especially in BrE) constructed as an auxiliary. AmE prefers DO-construction. "I haven't any books." In dynamic senses (recieve,take, experience, etc) HAVE in both AmE and BrE normally has DO-periphrasis." – Ani Aug 18 at 15:16
  • There is the key word 'often', which affords a statement I am far happier with. 'Had you a bad back?' sounds far less idiomatic than 'Did you have a bad back?' – Edwin Ashworth Aug 18 at 16:52

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