I have read a very short passage from an American textbook which is for elementary school students.

Has the lad a dog?
The lad has a fat dog.
The dog has Nat's cap.
Nat and Rab ran.
Rab ran at a cat.

What I couldn't understand is this: “Has the lad a dog?” I think it should be rephrased to:

Does the lad have a dog?

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    You'd never hear this in American English, but speakers of AmE would understand it nonetheless. It's a remnant of an older question form without do-support. – user230 Aug 29 '13 at 9:22
  • @snailboat So that means it is not acceptable in written English, right? – user48070 Aug 29 '13 at 9:27
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    I think it's "acceptable" in print, but I wouldn't recommend it, and I have trouble imagining someone saying it. I would recommend your rephrased version in both written and spoken AmE. – user230 Aug 29 '13 at 9:34
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    I wonder if the book was deliberately avoiding the word does because it might be tricky for the elementary reader. Every word in the caption provided has the short vowel sound. I'd venture a guess it's a practice reading passage for students who have been taught short vowel sounds, but not long vowel sounds, much less irregularly-pronounced words like "do" and "does". Not only is the question oddly phrased, but even the word lad is not used very often. Most would usually ask, "Does the boy have a dog?" – J.R. Aug 29 '13 at 9:50

OP's citation is from William Holmes McGuffey's "Eclectic Readers" (eclectic = selected). Given McGuffey lived from 1800 – 1873, it's hardly surprising his selected examples include some usages which would be considered dated/obsolete/archaic by most Anglophones today.

The specific example "Has the lad a dog?" would probably never be uttered by any native speaker today in an informal context (we'd say "Does the lad have a dog?"). In more formal contexts you do still come across constructions like...

"Mr. President, have you any thoughts on the situation in Iran?"

...but personally I'd advise OP to throw away McGuffey's primer and use something more modern.

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    Maybe so, but I've seen a lot of primers (even modern ones) use some peculiar sentences in the very early reading lessons, in an effort to avoid words that might trip up the their very novice readers. – J.R. Aug 29 '13 at 12:59
  • Good answer, and good job finding the reference (though perhaps the OP could name their sources more specifically in the future to save answerers like you the trouble). This book can be found online here and appears to be originally published in 1836 (!). It also appears that @J.R. is correct that the words in these sentences are selected largely by what vowels they contain, rather than out of any concern for sounding like natural English. – user230 Aug 29 '13 at 18:25
  • @ snailboat: Yeah - I'm guessing McGuffey was keen to stick with æ as in the cat sat on the mat. Your comments seemed more than adequate to answer the question, but I just couldn't resist Googling to find out who came out with the (to me, bizarre) pairing Nat and Rab. As that link to Google Books shows, it never caught on (there are only 8 instances, and they're all for his supposedly "typical/familiar" example). – FumbleFingers Aug 29 '13 at 20:09
  • @FumbleFinger Would you please recommend some books which are suitable for the elementary students to read? – user48070 Aug 30 '13 at 2:28
  • @snailboat I would name the sources more specifically in the future. Would you please recommend some English books which are suitable for the novice to read? – user48070 Aug 30 '13 at 2:30

It's a common structure in poems.

Another example

Baa, baa, black sheep,

Have you any wool?

Yes, sir, yes, sir,

Three bags full;

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    It's only really "common" in old poems (and children's nursery rhymes preserved over centuries). And in contexts where the antiquated turn of phrase might be thought to add a touch of gravitas, such as "Have you no shame?" (though such usages are as like as not to be at least partly facetious). – FumbleFingers Aug 29 '13 at 20:15
  • It reminded me of the WWII movie Went The Day Well. Apparently the title was taken from a 1918 epitaph. I suppose in 1942, and even in 1918, this turn of phrase was being used as @FumbleFingers said "to add a touch of gravitas". – Nigel Harper Aug 29 '13 at 21:35

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