Pretty much the title, I have searched it on the internet but couldn't find a conclusive answer. Most I could find were elementary-level English lessons.

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    It's grammatically correct, but "Is the item unreliable?" would probably be more idiomatic. Commented Mar 16, 2022 at 13:25
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    It might have occurred in Victorian English, but nobody frames their question like that today. We always use "do-support" nowadays, as Does the item have low reliability? There are better ways of asking the same thing (Is the item reliable?), but they're just stylistic choices that are all well within the bounds of "acceptability". But even though your version is syntactically "valid", it's just not something people say today. Commented Mar 16, 2022 at 13:39
  • @FumbleFingers - I still do say e.g. 'Has the cat a new collar?' but I have learned to tone it down amongst spoken-language prescriptionists to avoid tedious debate. Commented Mar 16, 2022 at 17:45
  • "It might have occurred in Victorian English". That reminds me. I must get my manservant to shave my mutton-chop whiskers. Commented Mar 17, 2022 at 10:02
  • @MichaelHarvey: That surprises me. For years I've been telling people (primarily, Americans) on this site that they're at least a century behind the times when they claim that Brits still ask Have you a light? (as opposed to Have you got a light?). I see from your profile that you're Bristol-based. I've always lived in the SouthEast, but with strong family ties to the NorthEast and NorthWest. I wonder if the "older" phrasing has tended to endure more in the SouthWest? For which my personal experience is little more than a few UK-based holidays when my children were young. Commented Mar 17, 2022 at 13:24

2 Answers 2


"Reliability" is the quality of being reliable. A person or thing has or possess qualities, for example:

  • I have high blood pressure.
  • Do you have high blood pressure?

Your question is perfectly acceptable, although a clearer version might be:

Does the item have low reliability?

You could also ask "is the item reliable?" (or unreliable), but that is open to wider interpretation. For example, a car might be described as "reliable" if it is mostly reliable. Asking if something has "low reliability" is more specifically asking if something is often unreliable.

  • So it is not the preferred version per se, but more on the acceptable side?
    – Stausse
    Commented Mar 16, 2022 at 13:32
  • @Stausse It's more than acceptable - it sounds more like an abbreviated form of a question, such as you might find on a questionnaire. In spoken English, most people would phrase it as per one of my other suggestions.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Mar 16, 2022 at 13:33
  • I don't think it's acceptable as a question without the the "does".
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Mar 16, 2022 at 13:49

The sentence is not grammatically correct. When you ask a question, you invert the subject and the auxiliary verb:

I can come tomorrow. - statement
Can I come tomorrow? - question

If there is no auxiliary verb, you add do as a dummy auxiliary:

You know what I mean, - statement
Do you know what I mean? - question

In some sentences, have is an auxiliary verb, and can be used for subject-auxiliary inversion. For example, in the following sentences, seen is the main verb and have is an auxiliary verb.

You have already seen this film - statement
Have you already seen this film? - question

Compare that with your sentence, where there is no other verb, so have is the main verb and you cannot do subject-auxiliary inversion with it. Here is the sentence as a statement:

The item has a low reliability.

Because the sentence has no auxiliary verb, you must add do as an dummy auxiliary if you want to make a question:

Does the item have a low reliability?

For British English, there is another way of dealing with the problem of have as a main verb: you can add got as the main verb, and then have becomes an auxiliary verb:

Has the item got a low reliability?

Note that, as others have pointed out, this is not a natural way of asking the question: something like this would be more natural.

Is the item reliable?

Due to a quirk of English, the be-verb is behaves as an auxiliary even when there are no other verbs in the sentence.

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    To begin a question with has it/he/she is not ungrammatical, just old-fashioned. This GoogleNgrams search shows how the use has declined, but modern examples include "Has he a nickname?" and "Has he a special aptitude?" Commented Mar 16, 2022 at 14:17
  • @KateBunting - perhaps considered less old-fashioned in UK English. Also, I am 70 in a few weeks, and at my infants' and junior school (not private or posh) in south London, the teachers made great efforts to eradicate the 'have got' form, without much success, it has to be said. Commented Mar 16, 2022 at 17:35
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    @MichaelHarvey - I'm already 70, and I remember a humorous children's grammar book circa 1960 which declared "Got is a weed which grows in sentences" (such as I have got an apple). Commented Mar 17, 2022 at 9:36

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