Have (weak and strong)

In order to improve your fluency and listening skills, it’s absolutely essential that you know and are able to pronounce the verb have in its two different forms. Have has a strong pronunciation /hæv/ when it’s a main verb (meaning own, possess, etc.) and a weak pronunciation /həv/ or /əv/ when it’s an auxiliary verb.

Notice that there are three main differences:

  1. As a lexical word, the strong form (that is, the main verb) is normally stressed. On the other hand, the weak form (the auxiliary), which is a function word, is usually unstressed.
  2. In the weak form, the full vowel /æ/ is turned into a schwa /ə/.
  3. The /h/ is very often dropped because of elision in the weak form.

Let’s see some examples:

sound_loud_speaker I have a dog. His name is Mr Bones. ǀ aɪ ˈhæv ə ˈdɒɡ ǀ

sound_loud_speaker My parents have said that they like him. ǀ maɪ ˈpeərənts əv ˈsed ǀ


Now listen to these recordings from different sources:


Have (strong form)

sound_loud_speaker And what we have here are a set of creatures that are predators. They’re very difficult to deal with, you wouldn’t really want to cross them. They have these very strong aggressive qualities. These qualities actually that any leader of this period would’ve aspired to (Sue Brunning, The British Museum).

sound_loud_speaker Because it has a strong sense of its utility, history has an incredibly important function to play in society (Maria Wyke, BBC4).


Have (weak form)

sound_loud_speaker New bookshops have opened in central London before, of course, but nothing that matches Borders in scale and ambition (Cambridge Proficiency test). ǀ ˈbʊkʃɒps əv ˈəʊpənd ǀ

sound_loud_speaker Phillip was said to have fought his campaigns by marriages  (Paul Cartlidge, BBC4). ǀ tu əv ˈfɔːt ǀ


In addition, the sound /v/ is sometimes dropped too (elision of v). So, believe it or not, this leaves the verb have pronounced just as a single phoneme /ə/ -no more, no less-, as you can see in the following recording:

sound_loud_speaker So, we think that the whole poem must have been something between twelve and fifteen thousand lines long (Laura Ashe, BBC4). ǀ mʌst ə biːn ǀ


This is the type of work I do with my students in my one-to-one classes. I make them practise these processes with exercises until they improve their comprehension of native speakers and are capable of speaking like that themselves. If you are interested in my classes, you can contact me here.


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