By Geraldine Woods

Two irregular verbs, to be and to have, appear more frequently than a movie star with a new film to promote. And like a movie star, they tend to cause trouble. Both change according to time and according to the person with whom they’re paired. (Amazing that the movie-star comparison works on so many levels!) Because they’re common, you need to be sure to master all their forms, as this table shows.

Verb Forms for the Irregular Verbs To Be and To Have
Pronoun(s) Present-Tense Verb for “To Be” Past-Tense Verb for “To Be” Present-Tense Verb for “To Have” Past-Tense Verb for “To Have”
I am was have had
you/we/they are were have had
it/he/she is was has had

Note: The form of “to be” used with helping verbs is been.

Practice questions

Fill in the blanks with the correct form of to be or to have:

  1. Kristin, never outdone, __________________ a different idea.
  2. You __________________ to taste her dish anyway.

Answers to practice questions

  1. has or had. This answer depends on the tense. If you’re speaking about a past event, choose had, but if you’re speaking about something in the here and now, has is your best bet.
  2. have. The verb, have, doesn’t express ownership in this context. Instead it implies obligation.