El Enigma de “To Have”/To Have and Have “Got”

The Kid met Antony, her adopted Peruvian “godson,” in summer 2006 when she was 19 and he was 12. Impressed by his eagerness to learn, she offered to pay for his secondary school and associated expenses such as room and board since there was no secondary school in his village. For the past five years or so, she’s acted as his combination fairy godmother–big sister–cheerleader–teacher, doling out advice, reprimands, homework help, and kudos from 3,000 miles away.
Desde hace cinco anos, La Flaquita ha apoyado a Antony, su “ahijado” adoptivo, para que él pueda asistir al colegio. Más que esto, ella le da consejo sobre sus estudios, le ayuda con la tarea, y escucha sus quejas.

El verbo “have” confunde muchos estudiantes de inglés. Para confirmar, simplemente pregúntale a Antony, el “ahijado” adoptivo de La Flaquita. Antony estudia inglés en el colegio y recientemente, cuando estaba hablando con La Flaquita, se quejó por el verbo “to have”. Él no podía entender como la misma palabra puede servir como el verbo auxiliar “haber” y también significar “tener”. Una amiga mía, que enseña inglés a los extranjeros, me dijo que casi todos los estudiantes de inglés luchan para aprender esto concepto.
Antony tiene razón. El hecho de que el inglés no tiene un verbo distinto para servir como un verbo auxiliar puede resultar en tales frases como “The dog had had his shots” (El perro había tenido las vacinaciones). “I had had my dinner” (Yo había comido la cena). “Antony had had enough!” (¡Antony ya había tenido bastante!).

Pobrecito Antony, ¡ya vas a ver! Tan confuso como “to have” puede ser, ¡la palabra “got” es aún menos claro!

The Kid fields complaints from two language learners. I grumble about my difficulties learning Spanish, and her adopted Peruvian “godson” Antony gripes about the craziness of English. As hard as it is to learn Spanish at an advanced age, I have to admit that it must be even more difficult coming to grips with the nuances and the contradictions and the ungrammatical but common phrases encountered in everyday English. After hearing about Anthony’s struggles with the verb “to have,” I started thinking about “got,” an innocuous little word often used idiomatically with the verb “to have.” “You have got quite a shiner” simply means that you have a black eye. “You have got to stop thinking with your fists” means that you have to, you must, think before you lash out.

“Got” is, as we all know, the past tense of the verb “to get,” yet it is quite commonly used as the present tense, as in “I got rhythm, I got music, I got my gal, who could ask for anything more” (by the Messrs. Gershwin). In both song and speech, you will also find “gotta,” which means either “have to” as in “We gotta get out of this place” (by The Animals) or simply “have a” as in “I gotta feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night” (by the Black Eyed Peas). Just to further obfuscate matters, “gonna” is the colloquial expression for “going to.” Even grammar snobs must concede that the Black Eyed Peas were unlikely to have scored a megahit had will.i.am sung “I have a feeling that tonight’s going to be a good night.”


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