I've seen an expression, "Have you an idea?"

Is it always possible to say "have you ~?" instead of "do you have~?"

"Have you a pen?"

"Do you have a pen?"

"Have you got a pen?"

Are they all OK and the same?


1 Answer 1


As an aside, there may be regional (national) and class variations in this usage.

When I started school in England (my previous schooling was French in Canada), if someone asked me a question, "Do you have [a pen]?" then I'd be inclined to answer "Yes I do." And young boys mocked me for that, because the proper/grammatical answer should have been "Yes I have."

I think that "have got" is used in fact, but is vulgar -- I don't mean rude, but unschooled -- or I might say, it's "familiar" i.e. I'd say it to my mother or brother, who don't correct my grammar.

And "have you" sounds formal -- maybe too formal, overly schooled, or English-as-a-second-language.

So I'd say "Do you have" (or depending on context, "may I borrow" or "can you lend me" or "would you lend me").

Lucy says to Snoopy "Have you any idea what you're going to do with the rest of your life?"

IMO using "any" instead of "an" changes the rhythm of the sentence i.e. which of the words receive emphasis when spoken:

  1. Have you an idea?
  2. Do-you have an idea?
  3. Have you an-y idea?

I might avoid the first one in my normal speech because the middle words "you an" come out kind of mumbled.

  • "maybe too formal, overly schooled, or English-as-a-second-language." - none of these in British English, but a bit old-fashioned perhaps. Mar 19, 2022 at 9:50
  • I didn't understand your comment.
    – ChrisW
    Mar 19, 2022 at 9:51
  • 1
    You said that 'have you' sounds 'formal -- maybe too formal, overly schooled, or English-as-a-second-language.'. I disagreed with all three, but added 'but a bit old-fashioned perhaps'. Mar 19, 2022 at 9:59
  • Ah -- you're saying it's normal or not abnormal in British English.
    – ChrisW
    Mar 19, 2022 at 10:04
  • A bit 'posh' (slightly formal) maybe. Mar 19, 2022 at 10:13

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