Has Vs Had

The two words are verbs that we constantly use. In some contexts, they perform the function of a main verb, while in others they are auxiliaries. An auxiliary verb is one that helps other verbs to make sense especially in terms of grammar.

In the sentences below “has and had” are main verbs:

  1. She has a pen.
  2. She had a pen.
  3. John has three pens.
  4. John had three pens.

In the four sentences, the only verbs present are ‘has’ and ‘had’. But in the following, they are auxiliary:

  1. She has gone.
  2. She had gone.
  3. John has washed the car.
  4. John had washed the car.

In the clauses ‘has’ and ‘had’ now help the main verbs ‘gone’ and ‘washed’.

Whatever has been said about “has” applies to “have”. The only difference between them is that while we use ‘has’ with he, she, it, each, everyone, someone, somebody etc and singular nouns, we use ‘have’ with I, you, we, they and plural nouns:

  1. He has a pen.
  2. She has a pen.
  3. It has gone.
  4. Ngozi has gone.
  5. I have a pen.
  6. You have a pen
  7. They have a pen
  8. We have a pen.
  9. Ngozi and Johnson have a pen.

Now, what is the difference between has/have and had?

The first major difference is that has/have expresses a present action while had expresses the past.


  1. She has a pen (currently).
  2. I have a pen (currently).
  3. She had a pen (before/in the past).
  4. I had a pen (before).

The second difference is that has/have states an action that started in the past and lingers till the present. In the case of ‘had’, it expresses an action that took place in the past before another one began:

  1. I have started writing. (Present Participle0
  2. She has started writing. (Present Participle)
  3. She had started writing (before I left the office – Past Participle.)
  4. They had set out before rain began to fall.

This is a major difference between has/have and had. You need to master it so you do not mix them up.

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