Have you (got) any relatives? = Old usage? Do you have any relatives?

Whyme

Member
Hungarian
Hi,

I'd like to know whether using only have or had in questions (expressing possession) is old fashioned/old use of English/literary language but correct. E.g. these sentences come from a 1983 novel: "Had he any relatives? Had he even a Christian name?" Did the author say these instead of Did he have.. because he's a writer and that's the accepted literary usage no matter he wrote that novel in 83? And what about the 'Had he got..' form? Is that old fashioned..?
 
  • panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Had he any relatives?
    Did he have any relatives?
    Had he got any relatives?

    The first two sound natural to me, with no sense of either being literary or otherwise exceptional.

    The third may well be used by those who use have got (it's used in parts of the UK, for example).
    Please have a look at the many threads discussing have versus have got.
    You'll find them by clicking on have got.
     

    xqby

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.)
    I think that it's indeed somewhat old, but immediately understandable. I wouldn't phrase the sentence without "did" unless there were some specific effect I could achieve by omitting it.

    "Had he got any relatives?" sounds Britishy to me, so I won't comment other than to say that it doesn't sound right in AE.
     

    Cypherpunk

    Senior Member
    US, English
    I believe these are more common with BE. They sound odd to a speaker of AE, old-fashioned and preoccupied with being 'proper'.

    Edit: And I agree with Panj that #3 sounds odd. It sounds as though he went and got a family, somewhere.
     
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    Whyme

    Member
    Hungarian
    Ok, thanks to all. So mostly BE, not really a question of old/modern use. Panjandrum, I did first look at the threads discussing have + have got but I know all about BE+AE uses and couldn't find anything about them being old/modern uses :( = the answer to my question.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I think there is some regional variation on this within BrE.

    I don't think I would ever naturally say "Had he any relatives?" and I would feel I sounded stilted and old-fashioned if I tried to do so. The most natural version, for me, is the "Did he have ..." one, though I expect - being a "got" user - that I sometimes say "Had he got ... ?"

    I'm from the south of England.
     

    Whyme

    Member
    Hungarian
    As I've never heard anyone in England (never been to the US) say 'Have you a car?' or 'Had you got a cat?' I suppose Grumpy Old Man's right. In fact, apart from literature, I only ever seem to come across these in English grammar books saying something like 'That's an alternative to Do you have/Have you got/Did you have'..
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The have got form goes back a very long way, thought it appears (from OED references) to be about 500 years younger than the form without got (appearing first in a 1596 quote).
    What a beard hast thou got; thou hast got more haire on thy chin, then Dobbin my philhorse has on his taile.
    Merchant of Venice (Shakespeare)
    Here you can see the distinction between have and have got. In the first part of the quote have got = acquired, or in this case you could replace got with grown without any significant change of meaning.
    In the second part of the sentence the philhorse simply has hair on its tail - as if it has always been there.
     

    Whyme

    Member
    Hungarian
    So, to sum up: today a native speaker would never say: 'Have you any relatives?' and 'Had you any relatives?' whereas 'Had you got any..?' would be possible probably for those using the 'Have you got any..' form in the present tense :)
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    So, to sum up: today a native speaker would never say: 'Have you any relatives?' and 'Had you any relatives?' whereas 'Had you got any..?' would be possible probably for those using the 'Have you got any..' form in the present tense :)

    This may be a bit of an over-generalization. I don't ask about relatives much, at least not in this form, but I might from time to time ask "Have you any jam/ paper/ more of these ....?" That is, I do use the present perfect form, but probably not the past perfect with this sense (Had you ...?).

    In my dialect of AE, I would not ask "Had you got ...?". I might ask "Have you got ....." (possession) or "Have/ had you gotten ...." (acquisition).
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    So, to sum up: today a native speaker would never say: 'Have you any relatives?' and 'Had you any relatives?' whereas 'Had you got any..?' would be possible probably for those using the 'Have you got any..' form in the present tense :)
    As Cagey says, this is an over-generalisation, Whyme. There are native speakers who would say "have you/had you any relatives?". Note that panj, who is from Northern Ireland, finds "Had he any relatives?" just as natural as "Did he have...?"
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    [...]whereas 'Had you got any..?' would be possible probably for those using the 'Have you got any..' form in the present tense :)
    I don't think so, Whyme. Among those who use have you got any..... very few (not to say none) would use had you got any...in the same sense.

    As far as I know, have got in the sense of have is only ever used in the present tense. (...I'm speaking for the UK).


    Have you got a pen? is something I say quite naturally

    But I can hardly imagine the following conversation
    X : He asked me for a pen
    Y : Had you got one?

    I would replace the last line by Did you have one?
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    As Cagey says, this is an over-generalisation, Whyme. There are native speakers who would say "have you/had you any relatives?". Note that panj, who is from Northern Ireland, finds "Had he any relatives?" just as natural as "Did he have...?"
    Yes, indeed.

    Like Cagey, I wouldn't ask about relatives in this way, but I would certainly ask Have you any brothers or sisters?
    In fact that is my preferred version of the question.
    Next would be Do you have any brothers or sisters?
    I would not ask Have you got any brothers or sisters?
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    >Panj, would you please look at the following sentences

    1. Had he any relatives?
    2. Had you one?
    3. Did you have one?

    (2 and 3 come from my preceding post).

    While I feel perfectly at ease with #1, I find that #2 doesn't sound quite right, I feel it's got -- sorry ;)-- a rhythm problem, some sort of limp to it.
    Which is why I prefer #3 to #2.
    What do you think?
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    1. Had he any relatives?
    2. Had you one?
    3. Did you have one?

    I realised earlier that I was being careful about the sentence.
    (1) is OK, so is (3), but (2) is indeed an unhealthy sentence :) It clunks.

    I don't think this is a matter of grammar, it is a matter of euphony.
    The complexity, or perhaps length, of the object seems to make a difference.
    Perhaps the tense (have or had) makes a difference too.

    Have you any brothers or sisters?
    Have you any relatives?
    I have three children. Have you any? Do you have any?
    Have you a ball? Do you have a ball?
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I can hardly imagine the following conversation
    X : He asked me for a pen
    Y : Had you got one?

    I would replace the last line by Did you have one?
    Yes, so would I, probably. But "had you got?" is possible with the sense of "did you have?" - although I'd say it's much less common.

    Some examples from the British National Corpus:

    But who's got a red coat? Had he got a red coat?

    He bought four rounds of double scotches last night and it didn't even make a hole in what he'd got." "How much had he got , Mr. Carter?"

    Yeah but was she a woman living on her own or had she got a husband?

    It would be fun, and what had I got to lose?
     

    Whyme

    Member
    Hungarian
    "Have you any relatives?"

    Old usage, indeed. The auxiliary do in questions is just 400-odd years old. (And nothing similar ever developed in any other Germanic language.)

    One more thing referring back to my original question: Does everyone disagree with Grumpy O M? It seems to me now that apart from AE speakers, none of whom would use any kind of 'have' only or 'have got' form, it's just a matter of where in Britain you are as all speakers of BE would use
    'Have you a car?'
    or 'Had you a car?'
    and also 'Had you got a car?'
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Do I disagree with Grumpy Old Man? No - he's right: the auxiliary "do" in questions started being used some 400+ years ago. But that doesn't tell us anything about whether "have you any relatives/had he any relatives" sounds old-fashioned or not...

    I think in your last sentence you meant "not all speakers of BE";)
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    The auxiliary "do" has been used for quite a long time.
    However, it's being used for what I call "normal" (I don't know or don't remember the right term) active verbs, like play, say, etc... and even do, when it is not an auxiliary.

    The case of be, have and modal verbs (can, may,...) has always been different.
    Be and modal verbs never use do.. They obviously have a special syntactic status.

    As for have, this thread (along with others) is telling us that......it depends..... on place, date, etc... and even sometimes on factors such as euphony, as we've just seen.
     
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    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    [....] It seems to me now that apart from AE speakers, none of whom would use any kind of 'have' only or 'have got' form, [....]'

    I am not certain I follow this. I am an AE speaker and I would use the have forms. (See post #11). xqby said he wouldn't. (See post #3). You might want to refrain from basing a generalization on such a small sample.

    I should point out that xqby and I are both from the same part of the US. Something other than regional difference is at play here.
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    I think we're dealing with a very "flexible" difference here. I'm ready to believe that some people once used have you and then, later in their life, shifted to do you have....or the reverse.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Perhaps the "aversion" to the "Have you any XYZ?" in which the have is a simple possessive, comes from a potential (recognized or not) confusion with the use of have as an auxiliary unintentionally conveying "pastness" in the words that follow.

    The "Have you any ... " form is required for the following, offered solely as a seasonal funny

    FUNEX?
    S,AFX
    FUNEM?
    S,AFM
    R,LFMNX!
     
    I think I may have an answer to the puzzle.

    The use of the simple present in asking questions has been almost entirely replaced in contemporary English by the use of the emphatic present. While it is not ungrammatical to use the simple present in asking a question, it certainly would sound archaic to ask "Know you my girlfriend Heather?" or "Like you the latest Foo Fighters album?" The far more natural way to ask such questions is "Do you know..." and "Do you like..."

    When one is asking questions in the past tense, it is also uncommon to use the simple past (e.g., "Found you a job yet?") however, it is very common to use either the emphatic past ("Did you find a job yet?") or the present perfect ("Have you found a job yet?")

    Because of the common use of the present perfect tense in asking questions, English speakers do not find questions that use "have" to be odd. However, at least in British English, this acceptance of "have" in questions gets carried over from the familiar use of "have" as an auxiliary in the present perfect tense to an acceptance of the identical forms of "have" that are used as the simple present and as the main verb.

    Thus "Have you seen my keys?" is a normal English sentence, with the verb being "have seen"; "Have you a pen that I can use?" also seems normal, but the verb here is in fact the simple present "have", with "have" functioning not as an auxiliary but as the main verb. If the verb were any other, it would not seem normal to use the simple present -- "See you a pen on that desk that I can use?" would seem odd; one would want to say "Do you see a pen on that desk that I can use?
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I think, in addition, that the use of the present perfect is obscured in the spoken language because "have" is often omitted. In this form, "have got" is very common.
    "Got your coat?" (="[Have you] got your coat?")
    "Seen my keys?" (= "[Have you] seen my keys?")​
    And so on.
     
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