In dictionary, "have" could mean

  1. (also have got) have something (not used in the progressive tenses): to own, hold or possess something

He had a new car and a boat.

  1. have something: to experience something

I went to a few parties and had a good time.

I was having difficulty in staying awake.

see these sentences "we have a good time" & "we are having a good time"

What is the meaning of the word "have" in these cases?

Are they the same?

I think that "have" in "we are having a good time" means "to experience" & "have" in "we have a good time" means "to own".

If "have" in "we have a good time" meant "to experience", then we would say "we always have good times". The reason is that we don't use simple present for specific action but routine one.

  • "Have" in both instances is to experience. "We have a good time" does not sound correct to my AE ears.
    – rajah9
    Jan 13, 2017 at 13:03
  • If you replace "a good time" with something concrete, like "salmon", then the "have" changes meaning. You ordered salmon at a restaurant and are telling a latecomer what you ordered.
    – rajah9
    Jan 13, 2017 at 13:06
  • @rajah9, Google shows 35 million results of "we have a good time"
    – Tom
    Jan 13, 2017 at 13:39
  • Yes, in English a good time is something one experiences: to have a good time, to have a cold, to have time. BUT not: to have 20 years old. To be 20 years old (age). However, in French, for example, you have 20 years.
    – Lambie
    Jan 13, 2017 at 14:42
  • Pretty much the same as in "I am having breakfast".
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 13, 2017 at 17:46

1 Answer 1


The meaning of have remains the same as between We have a good time and We are having a good time. What changes is the (grammatical) aspect.

To see this, consider:

  • We have tea (at three, in the garden, etc.).
  • We are having tea.

Have tea has the same meaning in either case, something like observe the social occasion called tea.

In the first sentence it (the verb) has what is called an imperfective aspect, more specifically habitual. It means you generally or habitually have tea (at three, in the garden, etc.) on multiple occasions over some period of time.

In the second it is also imperfective in aspect, but more specifically progressive. It means a particular instance of social occasion called tea is in progress.

You can replicate this distinction with any number of things. E.g.:

  • I drive (to work, for pleasure etc.).
  • I am driving.

You would not want to think that the meaning of drive changes here. In either case it means something like to operate a means of transportation.

In the same way, have in your examples have the meaning of experience (rather than own). Only the aspect changes from habitual to progressive.

By the way there is nothing sacrosanct about terms like "habitual" etc. They are just there to tell you what to Google for.

  • so you mean "we have a good time" is similar to "we often/always have good times"
    – Tom
    Jan 13, 2017 at 13:50
  • @Tom Yes. The pedantic way to put it is to say that one usage of simple present tense is to express habitual aspect. Things like I go to church or I drink coffee black or I never say never all have built-in often/always.
    – Catomic
    Jan 13, 2017 at 13:54
  • but "we have a good time" sounds like for a particular time in a particular situation not for many times or in general.
    – Tom
    Jan 13, 2017 at 14:06
  • @Tom You mean the way the other examples (e.g. church) do not? Start by considering things like: We have a good time at the pool, not so much at the bar or Do the children have a good time? I know parents do. Would you think these refer to generalities? A bare thing like We have a good time is not intuitive.
    – Catomic
    Jan 13, 2017 at 14:17
  • Or, a couple: That place you sent us, it sucked! We'll never go there again. The other couple: Well, but we have a good time....
    – Catomic
    Jan 13, 2017 at 14:22

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