Lower Primary | Using “Has/Have/Had” Correctly!

‘Don’t worry, he got an umbrella!’ Lisa says as she points at David.

Is there anything wrong with what Lisa said above? If you are frowning at the word ‘got’, you are absolutely right. Lisa is speaking about something that is happening now but she used ‘got’, a past tense verb. The meaning of ‘got’ also does not exactly fit what Lisa is really trying to say here, which is that David HAS an umbrella.

Even though we hear ‘got’ being used this way in the conversations around us here on this sunny island and people do understand what Lisa is trying to say, we need to be mindful to use it accurately in formal situations e.g. in school.


Has-Have-Had to Show Possession or Experience

 

To begin with, it is correct to use ‘got’ when it is used to express the action of receiving something in the past. e.g. Last year, David got a lot of presents during Christmas. However, it will be more accurate to use ‘has-have-had’ when you are trying to express the action of owning something OR experiencing something in the present or in the past. e.g. David got has a book in his bag or David got had an examination yesterday.

Now that we know we should use ‘has-have-had’ to express the action of owning or possessing something, I will be sharing with you how to use hand gestures and some useful videos to help your child remember when and how to use ‘has-have-had’.


Has/Have

 

‘Has/have’ are the present tense verbs. ‘Has’ is used with a singular subject and ‘have’ is used with a plural subject.

has-have-had

I shall start by sharing with you a song to introduce ‘has/have’ to your children. Songs and videos are always great for learning with their catchy tunes and engaging visuals. Adults and primary caregivers can sing along with the child as they watch Youtube videos on has/have, such as the one featured in this blog.

 

 

After singing the song, explain to your child that we use ‘has/have’ to show that someone, an animal or a thing owns something or something belongs to someone, an animal or a thing.


Using Hand Signs

 

(A) For Has/Have

While giving an explanation is important, providing examples is another effective way that helps young English learners to understand new concepts. I am going to show how you can make sentences as well as use hand signs to make the learning more visual for your child. Below is an example of how this can be done for ‘has’:

Step 1: Make sentences using items that your child has. For instance, if your child is called ‘Kayden’, say….

A. Kayden has two eyes. (Get your child to point to his own eyes.)
B. Kayden has a pencil. (Get your child to hold the pencil in his hand and point to it.)

Repeat this with other items that he/she has.

Step 2: Make sentences with the items you have, say….

i. Mummy has a watch.
ii. Daddy has a car.
iii. Mummy has three children.

Step 3: Making the hand sign

Explain that ‘Kayden’ (replace with your child’s name) is singular because there is only one Kayden (replace with your child’s name)’ and we use ‘has’ when referring to one person, animal or thing. To help your child understand the meaning of what is ‘singular’, get your child to do the ‘singular hand sign‘ like what the child in the picture is doing

Lower Primary English

Get your child to do the ‘singular hand sign‘ and point his/her index finger at the words and slide it along the singular subject sentence as he/she reads, such as the following:

  1. He/Seth has a blue toy care.

  2. Mummy has beautiful eyes.

  3. My sister has long hair.

  4. Grandpa has a beautiful smile.

  5. My dog has a long tail.

  6. A chair has four legs.

Note that the words in bold are the singular subjects in the sentences.

As your child is reading these sentences, explain that ‘has’ is used when we are referring to something that belongs to a person, animal or thing.

You can repeat Steps 1 and 2 for ‘have’ by creating sentences with items that belong to you and your child.

For Step 3, use the ‘plural hand sign’ as shown in the picture below:

has-have-had

 

As your child reads the following sentences, get your child to point both his/her index and middle fingers at the words simultaneously and slide them along the sentence as he/she reads it:

  1. Jane and I both have a sister and a brother.

  2. My brother and I have a set of lego blocks.

  3. We have a Siamese cat at home.

  4. John and Mary have bicycles.

  5. They have the latest Robo Car Poli toys.

  6. The cat and the dog have eight legs in total.

  7. My books have my name written on them.

Note that the words in bold are the plural subjects in the sentences.

As your child is reading these sentences, explain that ‘have’ is used when are referring to somethings that belongs to two or more people, animals or things.


(B) For Special Words ‘I’ and ‘You’

 

has-have-had

Instead of saying that ‘You’ and ‘I’ are exceptions, share with your child that these are special words with power. This is true because ‘You’ and ‘I’ are words that we use to address another person and ourselves in the most direct way.

And because these are words of power, we use ‘have’ instead of ‘has’. When getting your child to read or form sentences that start with’You’ and ‘I’, get your child to clench his/her fist and touch his/her chest when using ‘I’. As for ‘you’, get your child to point his/her clenched fist at the person they are referring to. Refer to the two pictures below:

has-have-had

I Have…

has-have-had

You Have…

Since pointing a fist ahead at the person the child is talking about resembles a punch, tell your child that he/she is actually punching the bad habit of using ‘got’ away!

Get your your child to clench his/her fist and do the relevant actions as he/she reads these sentences. You may also come up with sentences that are relatable to your child.

  1. I have a three pencils.

  2. I have black hair.

  3. I have a wonderful mummy and a fun-loving daddy.

  4. I have a brother/sister.

  5. You have brown eyes.

  6. You have a ball.

  7. You have a missing tooth.


(C) For Had

 

has-have-had

As most young children will take some time to switch from using ‘got’ to ‘has/have’, it is NOT advisable to introduce ‘had’ until your child is comfortable with the switch.

Instead of sharing complicated grammar rules, share that we use ‘had’ for everything that we had in the past and get your child to place his/her hand behind his/her head like the person in this picture:

Lower Primary English

We place the hand behind the head to signify that we are referring to the past.

Get your child to read the following sentences as he/she places his/her hand behind the head. You may also come up with relatable sentences for your child to practise on.

  1. I had my birthday party last week/month.

  2. Jane/She had one egg left in the fridge yesterday.

  3. Tom/He had a cold last week.

  4. We only had two dollars to buy lunch just now.

  5. They had examinations one week ago.

  6. You had a cut on your hand the last time we met.

You may also play and sing along to the popular song ‘Old McDonald had a Farm’ and explain that all these happened in the past and Old McDonald no longer had the farm.


Benefits of Using Hand Signs

 

  • Habits are hard to change. Some children may have formed the habit of using ‘got’ when the more accurate word to use is ‘has-have-had’. As such, doing the actions is a physical reminder for your child that he/she has to use ‘has/have’. The pointing of a lone index finger as your child reads the sentence is to remind him/her that the subject is singular. Likewise, pointing both the index and the middle fingers at the same time reminds your child that the subject is plural. Since children may not understand what a singular or plural subject is immediately, the fingers will hopefully remind them that the sentence is referring to one or two or more people, animals or things.

  • The actions also work well for kinaesthetic learners by helping them to simplify and recall the grammar rules intuitively as time goes by. The actions are simple and work as effective reminders to get your child to use ‘has/have’. You may also do the actions when you hear your child using ‘got’ in his/her sentence to remind them to make the appropriate change.


While it is inevitable that we often hear the use of ‘got’ in our daily conversations, tell your child that he or she should begin using ‘has/have’ at home. This is also a chance for parents and caregivers to make the switch too if you have been using ‘got’ inaccurately. It might be hard at the start, but persevere and your child will make the switch as he/she gets used to using ‘has/ have/had’.

I hope that today’s post has provided you with some new ideas to learn “has-have-had” with your child! To give your child some practice on what we have learnt in the blog post, I have prepared two worksheets on “has-have-had” for your child to try! Have fun learning!

Has/Have/Had Worksheets

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