I have seen this sentence on a newspaper. It is about a case in which a husband is worried about his wife cheating on him...". Here is sentence:

"...I love her so much. I honestly thought she was my rock. She is the last person who you would have down as a cheat...."

I did not quite understand the relative clause and am confused about the usage of "would have down" in the sentence, because it does not seem like any other structure of conditionals. And I have never seen such a usage of "WOULD HAVE DOWN".

It seems like conditionals type 3, but then "down" should be a verb. And if it is conditionals type 2, then "to have down" should be a verb, which I don't think is true. So, I am confused.

What is the verb in the sentence? Is it "to have down" or is it "down"?

In other words, what does "would have down" mean here? Is it something like:

1- "If you had come to the wedding, you "WOULD HAVE SEEN" John. ("see" is the verb here. So does "WOULD HAVE DOWN" in the sentence have the same function as "WOULD HAVE SEEN" in this sentence?

2- Or is "DOWN" an noun such as "We WOULD HAVE DINNER together, if you had come to the restaurant yesterday." (So is "WOULD HAVE DOWN" the same as "WOULD HAVE DINNER" in this sentence?

Shortly, what does the sentence mean and is the "WOULD HAVE DOWN" structure a conditionals 2 or a conditionals 3 ?


Here is the link I have seen the sentence: https://www.thesun.co.uk/dear-deidre/8338205/fiancee-raped-drunk-pals-brother-invited-wedding/


The role played by down here has various names in various grammatical traditions: adverb, particle, locative, preposition. I think of it as an "intransitive preposition", a preposition which stands on its own as a preposition phrase, without an "object".

The sense of down is the same as you see in these constructions:

I wrote him down as a "maybe".
Put me down for a $100 donation.
John's completely down with moving the meeting up a day.

In all these the metaphor is approximately "entered on a list"; it's an idiom that goes back at least to Shakespeare:

My tables—meet it is I set it down
That one may smile and smile and be a villain.

So the husband is saying that his wife is the last person you would ever have on your list of people likely to cheat.

  • For OP's exact context (have X down as Y = categorize X as Y / have X on one's list of Ys), we also use have X pegged as Y (though nobody says Peg me for a $100 donation, or He's completely pegged with the plan). By analogy therefore, could we not say down is a verb - shortened from set/put down = listed / marked / pegged? – FumbleFingers Feb 5 at 13:32
  • @FumbleFingers mmm ... Externally it's certainly a predicate of some sort, and it could be paraphrased with a participle; but I think its internal structure is that of a preposition phrase. – StoneyB Feb 5 at 13:45
  • Yeah - at the end of the day I think your choice of "preposition phrase" is the right call, so I didn't intend to suggest "verb" was a better choice. I just thought it could reasonably be added to your list of various names in various grammatical traditions. Not that I've any specialist knowledge of any of those particular traditions. But they have to start somewhere - perhaps in decades to come these very comments could be pegged (clocked?) as the start of a new verb-b(i)ased grammatical categorization tradition. (I'd be down with that! :) – FumbleFingers Feb 5 at 13:54
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers One of the really fascinating things about English (and for all I know lots of other mostly non-inflecting languages) is how readily "words" drift from category to category: verb, noun, adjective, adverb, preposition are really properties of utterance situations, not of "words". – StoneyB Feb 5 at 14:58
  • I must try to remember that one - [parts of speech / word categories] are really properties of utterance situations. If you could be persuaded to make a "Canonical Question" based on that (unquestionably true) observation, I'm sure it would be worth at least a "Related" link from many questions asked here. If not, perhaps I'll end up just repeatedly linking to your comment (which I trust the mods won't just "tidy away"! :) – FumbleFingers Feb 5 at 16:41

In UK casual speech and writing, to "have someone down" as something is to believe that the person is capable of doing something, or likely to do something. I never had him down as a thief = I never thought he was a thief. I always had him down as a decent person = I always believed he was a decent person.

  • it is a metaphor isn't it? Fry's English Delights episode 3 will broaden your eyes to how many metaphors there are in the English language. This is a reference to having a written down list of people, I can not imagine who did it enough for it to reach this status. – WendyG Feb 5 at 16:10
  • here it is as an idiom: idioms.thefreedictionary.com/have+you+down+as – WendyG Feb 5 at 16:16
  • 1
    @WendyG: I've Got a Little List of the people who did it enough for it to reach this status. I think it might have all started with St Peter at the Pearly Gates, with his list of people he would let in (or does he actually have many separate lists of cheats, sinners, apostates, etc., to identify those he won't let in?). – FumbleFingers Feb 5 at 16:50
  • It did cross my mind that maybe the origin is that you have someone "down" on a mental list. I am not sure though. To have a task down (especially to have it down pat) is to have completely learned it, and I don't think you have mental notebooks there. – Michael Harvey Feb 5 at 18:17

She is the last person who you would have down as a cheat.

Let's parse the sentence. There are two phrases used in the sentence, i.e:

  • Be the last person.

  • Have someone down as.

You use the former phrase to make a strong negative statement. For example:

He is the last person I would ask to help me.

The sentence means that he is the most unlikely person whom I would ask to help me or, in other words, I would not ask him to help me at all.

As for the latter phrase, you use it to say that you think of someone as a particular type or class of person. Some people use "put" instead of "have" in the phrase i.e. put someone down as.

So the sentence means that she is the most unlikely person of whom you would think as a cheat/you would n not think of her as a cheat at all.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.