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I have a sentence in an exam that says:

[1] I WOULD COME if I DIDN'T HAVE other plans.

Is it right to say the sentence:

[2] I would come if I HADN'T other plans.

I am having trouble deciding.

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  • 1
    Both mean the same, although didn't have is more natural in modern English. Mar 5, 2022 at 11:33
  • They're both grammatically OK and have the same meaning, though 1. is more likely. The difference is grammatical: in 1. "have" is a lexical verb while in 2. it's an auxiliary verb. Note the requirement for do-support in 1. as is normal with lexical verbs in negatives and interrogatives.
    – BillJ
    Mar 5, 2022 at 11:41
  • If it's the verb that's being negated, we don't generally like to negate to have in such contexts - we'd much rather include "do-support" so we can negate auxiliary to do instead. Alternatively, another way to avoid that non-idiomatic negating hadn't is to negate the object noun instead: I would come if I had no other plans. Imho, negated do-support is more likely when the scenario being referenced is known to be untrue (completely hypothetical "irrealis"), but negating the object is more likely if the speaker himself doesn't [yet] know if he will be busy. Mar 5, 2022 at 11:53
  • I'd say << [2] I would come if I HADN'T other plans >> models on << [2'] I wouldn't come if I HAD other plans >> with had again a lexical verb. But 'hadn't' for 'did not possess' is often unidiomatic ('I hadn't any other plans' but *'I hadn't other plans'). Mar 5, 2022 at 12:22
  • Thank you both! This helped me a lot.
    – Mary
    Mar 5, 2022 at 13:30

2 Answers 2

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[1] I WOULD COME if I DIDN'T HAVE other plans.

[2] I would come if I HADN'T other plans.

[1] and [2] are both grammatically OK and have the same meaning, though [1] is far more likely.

The difference is grammatical: in [1] "have" is a lexical verb while in [2] it's an auxiliary verb.

Note the requirement for do-support in 1. as is usual with lexical verbs in negatives and interrogatives.

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  • In UK English, lexical have used with a possessive meaning can behave as an auxiliary and contract with not and appear in question tags etc. However, in standard American English this is ungrammatical. It's one of the few well-known differences between the two varieties (although, I would argue it's marginally acceptable, at least, in US English given its existence in common well known idioms). Mar 5, 2022 at 23:48
  • I'm aware that in some varieties of English, stative "have" is always a lexical verb.
    – BillJ
    Mar 6, 2022 at 14:17
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1) is the better of the two sentences.

present- I have got. Negative- I haven't got.

I have. Negative- I don't have. (I haven't- less usual)

Past- We usually use didn't have (NOT hadn't) in negative sentences.

...I DIDN'T HAVE ...

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