I can't understand why my grammar book use the "have" verb at some situations like

She had a coffee

She was having breakfast

Instead of

She drank a coffee

She was eating breakfast

I think the "have" verb is a general auxiliary verb which can fit with many predicate words. I might to know which of these will be better to use in certain situations.

2 Answers 2


Your book is showing you how many people actually speak.

Especially in spoken English, we find that people will use a general verb like "have" even when a more specific one is possible. This is true particularly when the specific meaning is understood from the noun. It is also useful for, for example, "I had toast and a coffee" (instead of "I ate toast and drank a coffee")

In written English authors try to use more expressive language: "I had breakfast" could be better expressed as "I ate breakfast" or "I enjoyed breakfast" or "I grabbed breakfast". In careful writing, a more specific word is usually preferred.

  • Thanks! Do you know if there any resources (books, web-pages) that could help me change my habits and use specific words more often? Sure, there are dictionaries of synonyms, but I was thinking about some resource that would treat most common cases and suggest other tips on getting a richer vocabulary?
    – Dr_Zaszuś
    Mar 5, 2019 at 14:49
  • For instance, I feel I write too often the words "have, make, give, get" and some others. What is an efficient way to search for a substitute in each particular case?
    – Dr_Zaszuś
    Mar 5, 2019 at 14:51
  • 1
    No specific resource, just general vocabulary building. For students at school (native speakers) who tend to suffer from the same problem of overusing the same words I would recommend "reading more" and "reading widely". So try to read fiction and non-fiction. New and old books. Authors from America, England, Scotland, Australia, ...
    – James K
    Mar 5, 2019 at 21:52

Your question asks if it is wrong to use more specific verbs rather than 'have'. The answer is no, it isn't wrong, but in many cases it is not natural sounding. English has many verbs which can be considered 'multi-purpose'. 'Have' is one of these verbs. As a multi-purpose verb it can be used for different grammatical structures, set phrases and idiomatic meanings. If you want to sound natural, rather than sounding like someone who is translating, I suggest you try to use 'have' the way a native speaker would. This link has many good expressions and if you scroll down you'll also see some grammar structures. free dictionary-have

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .