Have in the Past Tense (Learn WHEN to use it – 18 examples)

The verb To HAVE is a common but often confused English word. My private students here in Japan often have questions about this verb, its various meanings, and its use as an auxiliary verb. I wrote this blog post to answer a very specific question for ESL students around the world.

HAD can be used as the past tense for both the regular and auxiliary forms of the verb To HAVE. 

To HAVE (verb) – past tense HADTo HAVE (auxiliary verb) – past tense HAD
I HAD Hawaiian pizza for dinner. The pizza HAD pineapple on it.I HAD never EATEN pizza with pineapple until last night.

*The auxiliary form of To HAVE is used with the past participle form of the main verb to make the perfect tense.

I did some more research so I could give ESL students (and teachers) a complete answer to this question. Keep reading for more examples so you can understand HOW to use the past tense of To HAVE and WHEN to use it.

To HAVE – auxiliary verb

The verb To HAVE is used a lot in English. Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries lists more than 30 meanings for the verb To HAVE. (There are over 30 ways to use it.)

have verb – Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries

According to the Wikipedia page listing of the most common words in the English language, the verb HAVE is #9. That means that it ranks in the top 10 list of common English words taken from a sample of over 2 billion words!

To HAVE can be used as an auxiliary verb. An auxiliary verb is a verb that helps the main verb in the sentence. Examples of auxiliary verbs are be, do, and have. They are used with main verbs to show verb tense, and to make questions and negatives.

have auxiliary verb – Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries

Auxiliary verb example sentences. (The auxiliary verbs will be written in bold text and the main verb in the sentence will be italicized.) 

  • We weren’t able to go because of the bad weather.

  • Did you have pizza for dinner last night?

  • I have been to South Paulo Brazil 3 times. 

The verb To HAVE – Past Tense

The past tense of both the regular and auxiliary form of the verb To HAVE is HAD. 

When to use the Past Tense of HAVE

When the subject of your sentence owned, held, or possessed something in the past you can use the past tense HAD.

The verb To HAVE – past tense examples

  • I had $200.00 in the bank but now it’s gone. I needed to fix my car last week. (I don’t have $200.00 anymore, this is a past situation.)

  • Jessica didn’t feel well on Wednesday, I think she had food poisoning. (We are describing Jessica’s past condition from the past.)

  • Ryan had a hard time writing a 3000-word essay for his economics class. (Ryan experienced some difficulty in the past.)

The auxiliary verb To HAVE – past tense examples
*The auxiliary verb To HAVE is used with the past participle form of the main verb in the sentence to make the perfect tense grammar. 

  • If I had not seen it with my own eyes I wouldn’t have believed it. (Seen is the past participle of the verb To SEE.)

  • Had I known Robert was at the party I wouldn’t have come. I don’t like Robert. (Known is the past participle of the verb To KNOW.)

  • It was almost 9:30 p.m. and Ryan still had not started his economics essay. (Started is the past participle of the verb To START.)
 Ryan still had not started his essay.

The verb To HAVE – Past Tense Contractions

HAD is often spoken and sometimes written as ‘D. Here are some example sentences.

  • At 11:30, I noticed that SHE’D forgotten her lunch at home. I drove her lunch to school so she wouldn’t be hungry. (She had forgotten.)

  • When the taxi arrived WE’D already been waiting for 20 minutes. (We had already been waiting.)

*The past tense contraction of To HAVE is only used with the auxiliary form of the verb. 

The negative form of HAD is HAD NOT. We often write this as the contraction HADN’T.

  • If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes I wouldn’t have believed it.

     
  • It was almost 9:30 p.m. and Ryan still hadn’t started his economics essay.

If you have more questions about this common English verb check out these other helpful posts:

To HAVE – ALL Verb tenses

We will use the same simple definition from above – to own, hold or possess something

Infinitive to have
The infinitive is often used with the verbs like, want, need, Etc. 

  • I want to have pizza for dinner tonight. 

Present simple I / you / we / they have

  • We have enough money saved up buy a new TV. 

Third person singular he / she / it / (proper name) has

  • Jim has enough money saved up to buy to a new TV.

  • He has $1,200 in the bank. 

Past simple had

  • I had a nice TV when I was younger. Now I mostly watch videos on my computer. 

Past participle had

  • I have had pizza for dinner every night for the past 4 days. It’s time for a change. 

Future will have – used for future activities that have just been decided

  • I think I will have hamburgers for dinner tonight for a change.

Future having – used for future activities that have already been decided

  • Why don’t you come to my house for dinner tonight? We’re having hamburgers, I bought some good ground beef this afternoon. 

*The verb to have is not used in The continuous tense, HAVING is only used for future activities that are planned.

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