Is it alright to use the same contraction, "He's", to mean both "He is" and "He has"?

"He's angry."
"He's been angry."
"He's a beautiful house."


Yes and no.

You do use "he's" for "he is" and "he has".

You do use "he's got something" for "he has got something."

You do not use "he's something" for "he has something." [Note that according to @Optimal Cynic this is allowed in some parts of the world]

Therefore the first two sentences you proposed are correct:

He's angry.
He's been angry.

But the third one is incorrect. You cannot shorten "he has a house" to "he's a house." You can only shorten "he has got a house" to "he's got a house." [Again, note what @Optimal Cynic claims]

More examples:

Correct: I have an apple.
Correct: I have got an apple.
Correct: I've got an apple.
Incorrect: I've an apple.

  • 7
    In some parts of the world the third one is correct thanks to local colloquialisms. "How do I find Bill?" "He's a house down by the river." Generally you'll find it in the same places that shorten "I have a" to "I've a", which makes your "I've an apple" correct too. – Optimal Cynic Feb 23 '12 at 9:26
  • But I've cannot be mistaken for I'm so it works for me to say I've an apple.. – mplungjan Feb 23 '12 at 11:03
  • @OptimalCynic is spot on, and in fact there's a question for that. – RegDwigнt Feb 23 '12 at 11:03
  • @mplungjan: But "he's an apple" can be mistaken for "he is an apple", while "he has an apple" might be intended. This rule doesn't work generally, therefore it can hardly be called a rule. – RiMMER Feb 23 '12 at 11:05
  • 2
    @RiMMER: Contracting "he has an apple" to "he's an apple" is common in some dialects of English. Sometimes an extra bit is added on which has the side effect of disambiguating - "Ooh, he's a lovely house he 'as" but that's an unrelated pattern of speech. – Optimal Cynic Feb 23 '12 at 11:14

Yes. He's can mean either he is or he has depending on context. She's and it's work the same way. Pick any reference.

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