Can anybody please tell me the uses of the words I have mentioned in the title?

Someone please tell me where and when I am supposed to use them and how to properly use them? Like in the following sentence,

The building could have had/would have had built if you had started working on it before.

I don't get it? Am I using the proper helping verb there or not? These words really confuse me and I just never manage to create sentences using them... English isn't my first language and because of this, I often find it difficult to make sentences when I have to use these words or words relative to these.

  • The only sensible sentence I can pull out of this is "The building would have been completed by now if you had started working on it earlier"
    – mstorkson
    Jan 13, 2017 at 17:23

2 Answers 2


The "have had" construction is the present perfect form of "to have". As with other verbs, the present perfect describes either an ongoing condition,

He has had that car since he was a teenager.

or a life experience:

In my life I have had many good dinners.

Adding "could" or "would" to this is no different from other uses of could (to describe potential) or would (to describe a hypothetical).

He would have had that car since he was a teenager, if he hadn't driven it into the lake last week.

In my life I could have had many good dinners, if I was a better cook.

It's not a common construction, and it's not important to use it. Usually these kind of sentences can be written using the simple past:

He had that car since he was a teenager

I had many good dinners in my life.

Remember that to use the past perfect of "to have", you have to start with an example that correctly uses that verb. For example:

That building has a good address.

That building has lots of tenants.

That building has ongoing construction.

Then you can change it to the present perfect:

That building has had a good address (but ...)

That building has had lots of tenants (but ...)

That building has had ongoing construction (but ...)

And then add could/would as appropriate.

That building would have had ongoing construction (if it wasn't raining).


In addition to what Andrew said, let me focus on would and could. As a continuation, let's start with his last example:

That building would have had ongoing construction if it wasn't raining.

The strong implication here is that the construction was extremely likely. Without any context to the contrary, it is likely to still happen.

That building could have had ongoing construction if it wasn't raining.

In this case, the likelihood begins at a lower level. In fact, construction may never have been likely, simply reaching the level of possibility. The likelihood of it happening in the future is indeterminate. The speaker might mean that the construction had that one last chance, but did not achieve it. Or his meaning might be completely neutral on the issue. "It could have happened then -- it might happen later. I dunno."

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