In MyGrammarLab Elementary A1/A2 by Mark Foley and Diane Hall Pearson 2012 I came across the following example sentence in the unit covering Reported Speech statements: 'I haven't got any money.' - She said she hadn't got any money.

In all the texbooks I have ever read they say that we form the negative past simple of any verb with the auxiliary did for all persons and the particle 'not'. Somehow it is not the case here. And they also teach us that the form of 'to have got' in the past simple tense is 'had' NOT 'had got'. So, my question is: is it grammatically correct (because I am interested whether such a sentence would be penalised at any EFL exam a student might take) to make the above changes or not?

The task of the exersice I am citing here is the following: Complete the reported statements with verbs, pronouns or possessives.

In my opinion it is rather unreasonable to give such a controversial example sentence at such a level bearing in mind that students have been exposed to Reported Speech for the first time.

  • a) Best never to teach reported speech (ok to teach reporting verbs though). b) That textbook is badly graded. This not a sensible kind of exercise for this level. That sentence is perfectly grammatical. So long as the people setting or marking the exam are native speakers, no student would get penalised for using it. May 13, 2016 at 23:02
  • In terms of verb forms, "have got" is best seen as an idiomatic use of the present perfect with GET, and had got the past perfect perfect with GET. May 13, 2016 at 23:05
  • That sentence sounds terrible in American English, which would use had gotten = had obtained. May 14, 2016 at 2:23
  • 1
    This reminded me of my old question about "why had you to leave early?" May 14, 2016 at 6:41

3 Answers 3


It's more British English than American:

"As though she hadn't got enough V. P. of her own! "

BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley


Theoretically, 'haven't got' changes to 'hadn't got', and 'don't have' changes

to 'didn't have'.

It might depend on whether the exam is American or British.

  • a British one. Theoretically anything is possible; what I am trying to find out here is whether it is safe to use such like form at any reliable exam or to be on the safe side and opt out of it?
    – Yukatan
    May 13, 2016 at 11:08
  • @Yukatan On a British exam follow haven't got - hadn't got. May 13, 2016 at 12:15
  • says who? I would rather you cited a reliable source.
    – Yukatan
    May 13, 2016 at 12:19
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    I would say thank you to you but the site tells me not to. I look forward to your answer.
    – Yukatan
    May 13, 2016 at 13:03
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    @Yukatan If you would like a reliable source, please see the Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English (Biber et al. 1999) starting on pages 161 and 215.
    – user230
    May 13, 2016 at 22:53

A good rule of thumb is to remember that have got can be used to mean have1.

1(Though it's very likely that haven't got any money in the example should mean "doesn't have any money", the alternate interpretation in BrE, "haven't obtained/received any money", can't be ruled out. For more details, see the discussion in comments under this answer.)

One interesting point made in The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (CGEL) on page 112 (which is along the same lines as given in other answers here) is that,

In both varieties [of have got, in BrE and AmE], however, the perfect origin of have got is reflected in the fact that the have component of it is an auxiliary, absolutely incompatible with do (*We don't have got enough tea).
(Note that an asterisk (*) denotes ungrammatical usage.)

Besides mentioning that have got is informal and characteristically BrE, CGEL also mentions that it's usually used in the present tense. From the same page:

Have got is restricted to informal style, but is otherwise very common, especially in BrE. The have or have got has no past participle form (*She had had got a Ph.D.): in this respect it is like the ordinary perfect auxiliary. Unlike the perfect have, however, the idiomatic have also has no gerund-participle: %She almost regrets having got a Ph.D. has only the non-idiomatic meaning "having obtained", and hence requires gotten in AmE. The plain form is very marginal: ?She may have got plenty of money but that doesn't mean she can push us around. The preterite [i.e., the past form] is certainly possible (She had got too much work to do), but it is fairly uncommon: have got occurs predominantly in the present tense.
(% indicates the grammatical status is grammatical in some dialect(s) only, and ? of questionable grammaticality.)

So, here is my take-home message:
(Note that all have gots below refer to have got when it's used to mean "have".)

  • have got can mean have (but remember that you can't always use have got for have),
  • have in have got is an auxiliary verb (so She said she hadn't got any money is fine);
  • it's fairly uncommon to use have got in the past tense (so the advice "the form of 'to have got' in the past simple tense is 'had' NOT 'had got'" is sound, even though you can use had as well),
  • but above all, remember that have got is informal, and
  • it's always safe to write have when you mean have got. ;-)
  • So, in my example above is 'hadn't got' a past simple or a past perfect verb form?
    – Yukatan
    May 13, 2016 at 11:01
  • 1
    My understanding is that in "she said she hadn't got any money", we can interpret "hadn't got" to be the past simple of "haven't got", in which case she was saying that there was no money in her pocket at the time she spoke. Alternatively we can interpret it as the past perfect of "got", in which case she was saying that at time of speaking she had not received any money (that is, "get" in the sense of acquire, where an American would say "hadn't gotten"). All you can really do to avoid explaining the ambiguity is rely on context to ignore the one that doesn't apply in a particular case. May 13, 2016 at 13:08
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    @SteveJessop Come to think of it, I think you're right. The AmE in me automatically and unconsciously overlooked that interpretation. I'm thinking that because hadn't got as the past form of haven't got is rare (according to CGEL), maybe in the OP's context, it's really used to mean hadn't/haven't received. May 13, 2016 at 13:18
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    And in practice we do sometimes work around this ambiguity. For example we'll say "When am I going to get my paycheck?" quite happily, but will generally (always?) say "I haven't been paid" or "I haven't had my paycheck" in preference to trying to use "I haven't got my paycheck" as a present perfect, because we know it'll sound like present tense "have got". May 13, 2016 at 13:25
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    So, in the context of the question, converting "I haven't got any money" (the actual words spoken) to "She said she hadn't got any money" (reported speech), they are definitely using the simple past of "haven't got" provided we assume that "I haven't got" is the present tense. Only if "I haven't got" is a present perfect would we convert it to past perfect "she hadn't got" in reported speech, and present perfect "I haven't got" is rare-to-non-existent anyway, and makes less sense than present tense when applied to "any money". May 13, 2016 at 13:42

The general rule that "we form the negative past simple of any verb with the auxiliary did for all persons and the particle 'not'" does not apply to verb 'be' and modal verbs (always) and to verb 'have' (for some people, some of the time).

In present simple, everyone says 'She has some money', most people say 'She doesn't have any money', but some people (usually older, more formal British English speakers) say 'She hasn't any money'. In past simple, everyone says 'She had some money', most say 'She didn't have any money', but some say 'She hadn't any money'.

Arising from this is the use of 'have/has/had' as the auxiliary verb in perfect verb tenses. 'She's got some money' has the structure of present perfect, but most people use it with a present simple meaning. But the use of 'has' as an auxiliary verb leads to the negative 'She hasn't got any money'. Past perfect is then 'She hadn't got any money', which is what we find in the reported speech sentence you are asking about.

So the example sentence is correct, but unusual in many varieties of English, and awkward even in those varieties in which it is used. It's a poor choice for an example in a book aimed at learners. 'She said that she didn't have any money' is more common in most varieties of English.

  • "She hadn't got any money" It is perfectly normal and natural in my (British) English. "She didn't have any money", though common, still feels like an American import to me.
    – Colin Fine
    May 13, 2016 at 10:28
  • If we assume that hadn't got is the past perfect form and not the past simple, another question arises, - according to the same book if the original sentence is written in present simple, one should change the original sentence into the past simple tense not the past perfect tense in the reported speech. What should we do about it?
    – Yukatan
    May 13, 2016 at 10:57

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