What is the difference between the word “having” in the following two sentences:

  1. Having accepted her mistake, the judge pardoned her.
  2. I am having a good time.

Talking of the auxiliary and lexical verbs please what are the difference

  • I fixed the list layout to make the question clearer, and while I was doing that I corrected a grammar error in the first sentence. It was unrelated to the actual question but could have been a distraction for people trying to answer. If I’ve overstepped in any of my edits, feel free to revert them.
    – tkp
    Mar 15, 2021 at 1:11
  • One other comment, concerning the second part of your question (about auxiliary/lexical verbs): that might be better asked in an entirely separate question.
    – tkp
    Mar 15, 2021 at 1:12
  • @tkp Those sentences illustrate the difference between the auxiliary and lexical uses of have, so the examples are related to the second part of the question (even if the asker might not know that). Mar 15, 2021 at 1:16
  • Yeah, I get that. But I still thought it would be better to split the question. Better still would be to rephrase the whole question so that the second part becomes the main topic, and then the two sentences provided can act as a specific example.
    – tkp
    Mar 15, 2021 at 1:18
  • The "auxiliary" having in the first example (a "Perfect" verb usage) is to some extent redundant. To a first approximation, Accepting her mistake, the judge pardoned her means exactly the same thing. Only a pedant would claim that the Perfect version is necessary (because the judge must have accepted her mistake before pardoning her). That nuance can easily be conveyed by After accepting her mistake, he pardoned her, which should make it obvious how unnecessary it is to reflect the "temporal sequence of events" here. May 11, 2023 at 15:10

1 Answer 1


One is auxiliary, the other is lexical - although you've definitely picked fairly confusing examples for both.

Having accepted her mistake, the judge pardoned her.

Here, the having forms a part of a perfect participle clause having accepted, which is derived from a Present Perfect tense - the judge has accepted her mistake. In Present Perfect, have is used as an auxiliary verb - it carries no meaning on its own, it just assists with the construction of the tense by "propping up" accept.

I am having a good time.

In having a good time, the have has a meaning - to experience, undergo, or endure, as joy or pain. As such, it's a lexical verb in this context - it has a meaning on its own, it doesn't just prop up another verb, in fact, there's no other verb in the sentence.

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