26 How to use HAVE in everyday speaking

Today I am describing how to use have as an empty verb in everyday speaking phrases. 

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Let’s learn how to use HAVE in everyday English speaking

Today I would like to talk to you about the verb HAVE. English native speakers like to use empty verbs: get, go, have, do, make, take.

My students often ask me: ‘Why do they use the same verbs again and again and again?’
Well, the answer is very simple: it’s easier.

Why do I call them empty verbs?

Because these verbs have their first main meaning:

  • ‘to get’ means ‘to receive’;
  • ‘to have’ means ‘to own’;
  • ‘to go’ means ‘to move’ and so on.

But when they become a part of a structure, they get the meaning from the noun.

For example, when you say ‘to have a shower’, it doesn’t mean that you own a shower. It means that you go to the shower and you clean yourself.

When you say ‘to have breakfast’, it means that you eat it.

You need to show if we are talking about the action in general or about one particular action. And for that, we usually use these structures with empty verbs.


‘Do you eat meat?’ (= in general, all the time)  but ‘I would like to have some meat’, ‘I want to have meat right now’, ‘I want to have this meat on the menu’.

I don’t smoke at all’(=never) but ‘I want to have a cigarette’ (= I want to have one cigarette).

More phrases with ‘have’ as an empty verb

  • to have breakfast / lunch / dinner;
  • to have something to eat;
  • to have a drink;
  • to have a talk;
  • to have a look;
  • to have a think …

There are a lot of set phrases in any language. Listen to the native speakers, learn from them and please take a note of how they do that: do they choose a full verb or a phrase with an empty verb?

Practice makes perfect and just learn to use the phrases step by step.

You may also find useful

Collocations and Phrasal Verbs with GO

Common Mistakes with Dependent Prepositions

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