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I've heard the following in the news:

"They are working with the church community, which has one of its congregation test positive."

1- What is this “have + infinitive” form called ? (I think it is tagged experiential-have, on this discussion group)

2- Is there a web site covering this in detail ?

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  • 2
    Did it actually say "has" - I'd expect "had"?
    – Grismar
    Oct 27, 2022 at 0:43
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    @Grismar Or maybe "has had"?
    – gotube
    Oct 27, 2022 at 3:05
  • 1
    Your sample sentence isn't grammatical.
    – Pound Hash
    Nov 1, 2022 at 22:12

2 Answers 2

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According to Syntax: A Minimalist Introduction, that structure is indeed called "experiential have". The only examples it gives are examples of bad grammar, but it's clear enough from the second one what the intended structure is, and it maps exactly onto your example sentence.

I didn't find any resources on it, but the structure is you have described, and it means that the verb happens to the object, and this usually means something bad for the subject. Some examples:

  1. I had a back tire go flat during the race.
  2. I had my phone die once during a video interview.

The difference between 1 and the simpler, "A back tire went flat during the race" is the focus that this happened to the speaker.

Similarly, with sentence 2 has a feeling of "listen to what happened to me", rather than the neutral story of some event in the past.

The listener is forced to consider how the speaker would feel in that situation, rather than just hearing the story as a fact in the past.

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Most native speakers would probably say the cited text is "unacceptable".

I don't want to get bogged down in arguments about whether it's "syntactically valid" or not. At the very least it's hopelessly ugly, and should be avoided. In principle, either of these alternatives work...

1: ...which has one of its congregation testing positive
2: ...which has one of its congregation who has tested positive

...but in practice competent writers would normally use Present Perfect for the primary verb (and Infinitive for the subordinate verb [to] test)...

3: ...which has had one of its congregation test positive

Note that the alternatives testing and who has tested both work fine with Present Perfect. It's just that the Infinitive is more common (except if the "primary" verb is Simple Present).


You can tell that test is an (unmarked) Infinitive because the form of the verb doesn't change even if the subject is pluralized to two of its congregation.

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