Got vs Have – What’s The Difference?

If “got vs have” has you all confused, don’t worry. 

We have all the answers you’re looking for if you want to make sure you get it right and have all the knowledge you need to write clearly, concisely, and in a grammatically correct way. 

Let’s take a closer look at “got”, “have”, and “have got” – what they mean, why they’re confusing, and how to avoid making mistakes when using them. 

Read on to learn more. 

Got vs Have - What's The Difference?

What Is The Difference Between “Got” And “Have?”

“Got” and “have,” while very similar in meaning and usage, are unique terms that are used at different times. Both refer to possession, but it is the form of possession that determines which is correct to use.

“Got” refers to receiving or procuring something, such as “I got marshmallows from the grocery store.” Or, “I got these shoes online because I saw them in a Facebook ad.”

“Have” on the other hand, refers to owning something, such as “I have marshmallows in my pantry.”

You could extend that second example to “I have marshmallows in my pantry that I got at the grocery store.” It would not make sense to say “I got marshmallows in my pantry that I have at the grocery store.”

Got vs Have: Why Are They Confusing?

In theory, there should be no “got vs have” confusion. 

However, because their meaning belongs to the same lexical spectrum, “got” vs “have” can be very easily mistaken. After all, they both express different states of possession – so it isn’t hard to fall into a lexical trap.

“Got” is on the receiving or procuring end and thus is a word that expresses a changing state. You get the groceries from the car when you’re home, you get a hoodie on when you’re cold, and you get a new laptop when the old one’s broken.

“Have,” on the other hand, is not a changing state – it’s used to express once you got (ah ha!) something. You have groceries in your home when you’ve bought them from the store. You have a hoodie on you, so you’re not cold anymore. And you have a new laptop now, so you can keep on working as a freelancer. 

If it helps, imagine “got” and “have” as two different points of a journey. You get something when it’s not yet in your possession (but it will be), and then you have it when that something’s already in your possession. But you can also say “I got it at the store.”

Furthermore, “got” and “have” are words that you use with different verbal tenses. 

“Got” is either Past Tense or a Participle (in any case, it expresses an action that either happened in the past or helps express an action that happened in the past and still has repercussions in the present). 

“Have” is used in the Present Simple tense. In simple terms, it expresses an action that happens in the present. To circle back on the hoodie example, you got the hoodie when you were cold ten minutes ago, but you have the hoodie on you right now (and you will likely not have it on you four, five, or twenty-four hours from now). 

When To Use “Got” 

In short, use “got” when referring to having procured or received something from somewhere or someone.

It’s an action in the full of the word: you are receiving something, and so there’s some sort of transfer of possession going on (e.g. you received the groceries from the supermarket cashier when you paid them and you go through the action of finding and possessing a hoodie when you’re cold.)

“I got that hoodie from my closet because I was cold.”

When To Use “Have”

Use “have” when referring to actively possessing something that you may or may not have just procured.

When you’re already possessing something, you’re performing a static action – you’re not moving (and no one else is moving themselves or an object towards you). The possession is not transferred in any way.

“I have a hoodie on because I was cold, and now I am warm.”

What About “Have Got”?

There’s an even stronger reason “got vs have” get mistaken, and that reason is called “colloquial speech”.  

In informal, colloquial English, you will frequently meet people who say “I have got to do (thing) today.” Where I grew up, this was very common, so much so that “have got” started to sound like a single word (“vegot”). It’s easy to see how people could drop the “have” in front of “got” and get confused over the meaning behind each word, right? 

Let’s get this straight: using “have got” is not technically incorrect, but it is more a phrase choice and colloquial use than a precise use of language. The proper way to say the above would be “I have to do (thing) today,” as it is more concise, and “have” is being used to replace “need.” “Have got” is usually better replaced by “need.” 

This is even more confusing since pop culture has been feeding into the “got vs have” mistake – there are lots of songs, movies, and books that use the phrase “have got” incorrectly. After all, America’s Got Talent and You’ve Got Mail, right? 

Wrong, but informal speech is frequently full of mistakes like that – not to mention that people often prefer the catchy rhythm and sound of “have got” over its more precise alternative. 

In speech, these types of grammatical blunders are sometimes acceptable. In writing, however, they can be a sign of bad grammar, and they should be avoided. Learning to differentiate “got vs have” will help you make sure that your writing is clean, polished, and professional — to the point where if you have to use “have got”, you’ll use it in the right context (such as, for example, mirroring the way your audience speaks). 

Have Got vs Have in Negatives and Interrogatives 

To make sure you use “have got” and “have” correctly when expressing interrogatives and negations, remember that: 

  • When “have” is used on its own, you use “do” (first and second person subjects) or “does” (third person) as an auxiliary to help you build the negative or the interrogative. 
  • When you’re using “have got” (colloquial speech), “have” acts as the auxiliary, so you will build  your negatives and interrogatives with it (“have” for first and second person, respectively “has” for third person subjects)

Got, Have, and Have Got: Examples 

Let’s take a look at some examples on when to use got vs have vs have got, in positive, negative, and interrogative sentences: 

Got vs Have vs Have Got: Positive

GotHave Have Got
I got marshmallows from the store every time I go there.I have marshmallows in my cupboard. I’ve got marshmallows, crackers, and gummy bears – which snack do you prefer?
I got a hoodie, it was cold. I have a hoodie on, so I’m not cold. I’ve got a hoodie in my backpack, do you want to put it on?
I got a new laptop; the old one broke. I have a new laptop.I’ve got an extra laptop to use in case the other one gets broken. 

Got vs Have vs Have Got: Negative 

GotHave Have Got
I didn’t get marshmallows from the store today.Do you have marshmallows in your cupboard all the time?Have you got marshmallows, gummy bears, or crackers, by any chance?
I didn’t get a hoodie, so I caught a cold. Do you have a hoodie in your backpack? It’s getting cold. Have you got a hoodie in your backpack to lend me?
I didn’t get a new laptop when the old one started showing signs of aging. Do you have a new laptop now? You said the old one broke.  Have you got an extra laptop with you, by any chance?

Got vs Have vs Have Got: Interrogative 

GotHave Have Got
Did you get marshmallows from the store?I don’t have marshmallows in my cupboard.I haven’t got marshmallows, crackers, or gummy bears – just healthy snacks, sorry. 
Did you get a hoodie on? I don’t have a hoodie on, so I’m still cold.I haven’t got a hoodie in my backpack, do you have one?
Did you get a new laptop or is that the old one still?I don’t have a new laptop. I haven’t got an extra laptop to use in case the other one gets broken. 

Looking to Get Some Help on “Got” “Have”, and More? 

We have the answer. Contact EditorNinja to learn how we can help you take back your time and publish perfectly polished content. Let’s work together and help you save days of time on your work and produce more and better content?

Schedule your free Editorial Assessment today to see if EditorNinja is a fit for you!