Person A found a old paper written in Arabic script in their basement. They took a picture of it and post it on a language forum.

Person B says: Do you have any relatives who used to live in an Arab country?

Person A: I don't think so.

The next comment reads:

Person B's question on whether you have relatives who used to live in an Arab country made me wonder if it could be the other way around, meaning perhaps someone who spoke a language that uses/used the Arabic script was living in the house.

Is using the present form of "have" correct here or should it be in the past?

  • 1
    I tried a large edit. Is this clearer for everyone? I did so because I hear this alot in non- native speakers quite often.
    – user19179
    May 13, 2021 at 17:47

2 Answers 2


Had relatives is not the best grammar, it implies they are not relatives anymore, even if that was not the intent. Still living or now dead you will always have relatives, and used to indicates the main subject of the question about Person A's past.

  • I think the main reason why the plain have is used is because the verb do only takes a bare infinitive verb as a complement: cf. *"Do you had any relatives" is still ungrammatical whether or not their relatives are still alive. May 13, 2021 at 2:45
  • @user178049 Correct. Do is present tense and the use of past tense had is incorrect. I did not include this because the OP's question seems to focus on a second question that was not formatted as a direct quote asking "DO... , and I was reluctant to edit it into one being unsure of their intent for this.
    – user19179
    May 13, 2021 at 2:49
  • @G Warner The conflicting tense is not the problem either. *"Did you had any relatives" is also ungrammatical: do or did requires a bare-infinitival complement. May 13, 2021 at 2:51
  • @G Warner Thank you. So can I say that "have" here is in present tense because "had relatives" doesn't make sense or should I always use the present tense in this construction of reported speech no matter the verb?
    – Mohammad
    May 13, 2021 at 7:09
  • @Mohammad Yes. But as user178049 explained in more technical terms in their answer. I just explained in a poor fashion.
    – user19179
    May 13, 2021 at 17:26

Have is your example is not present tense, but a bare infinitive, which is essentially tenseless.

The bare infinitive is required because the verb do only takes a bare infinitive as a complement. Therefore, both of the sentences below are ungrammatical:

Do you had any relatives who used to live in an Arab country?
Did you had any relatives who used to live in an Arab country?

  • Just to clarify, are you talking about the "have" in "do you have any relatives.." or the "have" in bold?
    – Mohammad
    May 13, 2021 at 4:17
  • I'm talking about Do you have May 13, 2021 at 6:15
  • Actually I was wondering about the "have" in bold but thanks to your answer I now know what bare infinitive and tenseless mean.
    – Mohammad
    May 13, 2021 at 7:02
  • @Mohammad Your question is really confusing from the title. May 13, 2021 at 7:07
  • Agreed. I tried my best though.
    – Mohammad
    May 13, 2021 at 7:14

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