Whenever it is said that 'We have a history' people consider it to mean that 'we' once were in a realtionship. Can 'we have a history' connote a non-relationship-platonic just good memories, sense.

I've googled it and haven't got any satisfactory results. Kindly apprise me of its usage.

  • to have a history=to have a prior usually somewhat negative relationship with a person. – Lambie Jan 27 '17 at 23:55
  • A similar expression for a business relationship that is probably negative would be "we've had dealings". Both are a bit of a warning flag that inquiring further may expose some unpleasantness. – Spehro Pefhany Jan 28 '17 at 2:46

It doesn't necessarily mean a romantic relationship. It often does, but the usage implies that there was something negative between you.

If I ended a relationship with a woman on good terms I might say

We used to date

But if it was a torrid affair that interfered with my life and friendships, but I don't want to expound upon it I would say

We have a history

Outside of a romantic context, say I had a long-term business rival who I frequently came into conflict with, "we have a history" is also appropriate.

But I would not use that phrase to refer to a long-term friendship or familial relationship.

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  • So the expression always has a negative sense, right? Will saying 'we have a good history' sound natural? – Nikki Jan 27 '17 at 15:06
  • @Nikki I don't think I've ever heard someone use that expression. There are better words for a long-term positive relationship like Curtis White's "we go way back" – mstorkson Jan 27 '17 at 15:19

The company has/ We have a history of good customer service.

The University has/ We have a history of producing qualified scientists.

The school has/ They have a history of racial discrimination.

My closest friend and I /We have a history going back to kindergarten.

I have/ That person has a history with that guy and so I suggest you be careful before you commit.

All of these are possible ways to use the phrase.

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  • The key here is that "we have a history" is qualified by other expressions which make it positive, but on it's own tends to refer to bad relationships. – Curtis White Jan 27 '17 at 21:45
  • @CurtisWhite There's a ad that used to play on our local TV station, but I cannot find it to link. "We have history", was a slogan they used. I thought it was a pizza ad, but can't find it. Can 'we have a history' connote a non-relationship-platonic just good memories, sense. I am saying that I think, yes. However it's used, there must be context or we can't know what is meant, though I do think you are correct, on its own -- it's negative. – WRX Jan 27 '17 at 21:58
  • That's fine because the ad means that they have been around for a long time and have developed skills. The context makes it mean something different, but in a typical context between two people, it will almost certainly mean a negative relationship. Context is important. – Curtis White Jan 27 '17 at 22:02
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    +1 for your extended examples. However, regarding your comment: "We have [] history" is different from "We have a history": the first means that the institution (the plural is used here for a singular organization) has been around a long time, doing important things. The second means that I and some other person(s) have had contentious or fraught interactions in the past. As a stand-alone phrase, it's never about happy memories. And both are different from "a history of" which means that the institution or person has a record of doing whatever comes after the "of". – 1006a Jan 27 '17 at 23:13

It is typically said of someone with whom someone once had a romantic relationship.

It often has an implication that the relationship was troubled and that there may be ill will between the two people involved.

Usually if you want to express that you've known someone a long time, especially outside of a romantic relationship, you tend to say "We go way back."

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  • @mstorkson+1 Can 'we go way back' be used in situation where I once met someone just for a day and had a good time but never remained in touch and now out of nowhere we meet again? To answer the curious people but not wanting to expound upon it, using 'we have a history' will have negative implication. Should I say 'we go way back' eventhough I haven't 'known him a long time' but just spend one good day with him? – Nikki Jan 27 '17 at 15:27
  • "We go way back" has the implication that you knew someone somewhat well. It wouldn't be appropriate for someone you met only once, but would be fine for, say, a schoolmate you haven't talked to in a long time. – Curtis White Jan 27 '17 at 21:43

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