The word ‘have’ can mean many different things. As a verb, the meaning is to own or to experience.
- I have 6 cats. (own)
- I had a great time. (experience)
Have is an irregular verb. The past tense is had and the past participle is had.
Did you know that ‘have’ can be a normal verb OR an auxiliary verb? See if you can spot where ‘have’ is an auxiliary verb in these idioms.
Check out the grammar section if you want to learn more about the different types of verbs we have in English.
idioms list with ‘have’
- don’t have the foggiest – have no idea at all
e.g. Morgan is drunk, I don’t have the foggiest idea what he is talking about.
- have a bee in one’s bonnet – be obsessed with something
e.g. Leah has a bee in her bonnet about starting her own business.
- have a beer belly – a big stomach due to eating/drinking too much
e.g. We need to go on a diet after our holiday. We’ve got beer bellies.
- have a big mouth – someone talks a lot and can’t keep secrets
e.g. Corey has a big mouth, I hope a year 11 shuts him up one day.
- have a change of heart – change your mind/opinion
e.g. My boss wants to transfer me to Italy. I hope he has a change of heart, I like it here.
- have a chip on one’s shoulder – a person with an angry attitude who feels they have been wronged by the world
e.g. Jamie has had a chip on his shoulder ever since he didn’t get that promotion.
- have a cow – become, angry, upset, frustrated etc.
e.g. Lisa’s having a cow because she can’t find her little black dress.
- have a crush on someone – secretly in love/infatuated with someone
e.g. I’ve had a crush on Alfie for years, but he doesn’t even know I exist.
- have a face like the back end of a bus – ugly
e.g. Her baby has a face like the back end of a bus.
- have a flutter – bet/gamble
e.g. I’m going to Las Vegas. I can’t wait to have a flutter in the casinos.
- have a frog in one’s throat – someone can’t speak as their mouth is dry and they need to cough
e.g. The presentation went badly. He had a frog in his throat so couldn’t get the words out.
- have a go at someone – start shouting at someone because they have done something wrong
e.g. The teacher had a go at me for throwing paper aeroplanes in class.
- have a good innings – had a long successful life/career
e.g. Albert had a good innings, he deserves his retirement.
- have a head for heights – someone isn’t afraid of heights
e.g. I have a head for heights so I’m starting my own window cleaning business.
- have a heart – be kinder, more compassionate
e.g. Don’t give him detention, his grandad died yesterday. Have a heart sir.
- have a knees up – have a party
e.g. I’m thinking about having a knees up at the weekend. I want to have fun and dance.
- have a lot on one’s plate – have too much work/many things to deal with
e.g. We can’t go on holiday this year, we’ve got too much on our plates.
- have a nerve – someone is arrogant, brash, cheeky
e.g. My son has a nerve. He asked for lunch money. but my husband already gave him some.
- have a paddy – be upset and have a tantrum (usually with children
e.g. My best mate had a paddy because I didn’t invite her for a coffee.
- have a screw loose – crazy/insane/odd/weird
e.g. You can’t leave a three-year-old at home alone. Does she have a screw loose?
- have a soft spot for someone – like someone a lot
e.g. Leon has a soft spot for Claire. He brings her cake every day.
- have a sweet tooth – someone who loves eating sweet foods
e.g. I had a sweet tooth when I was younger. Now, I prefer savoury foods.
- have a thing for someone – be infatuated with someone (usually secretly)
e.g. I think Jane has a thing for Ollie, she is always staring at him.
- have a whale of a time – have a really good time
e.g. The kids had a whale of a time at the water park yesterday.
- have an ace up one’s sleeve – have a secret advantage
e.g. I’ll get the job. I have an ace up my sleeve; my dad is friends with the boss.
- have an axe to grind – have a complaint/dispute
e.g. The boss has called an emergency meeting, I think he has an axe to grind.
- have beef with – have a problem with someone
e.g. I’m not using that hotel chain. I have beef with them.
- have bigger fish to fry – have more important/interesting things to do
e.g. I can’t help you look for a new bike. I’ve got bigger fish to fry.
- have blood on one’s hands – be responsible for someone’s death
e.g. The president sent the troops to war without proper weapons. He’s got blood on his hands.
- have butterflies in one’s stomach – your stomach feels funny because you are scared, nervous, anxious etc.
e.g. I had butterflies this morning, but they went just before the exam.
- have chemistry – a connection, mutual attraction, compatibility
e.g. There isn’t any chemistry between Shaun and his new girl, they’re better off as friends.
- have egg on one’s face – look stupid/be embarrassed/humiliated
e.g. If you accuse him and he is innocent, you’ll end up with egg on your face.
- have eyes in the back of one’s head – someone who knows everything you are doing
e.g. I can’t cheat in Miss Johnson’s class, she has eyes in the back of her head.
- have green fingers/green fingered – good at gardening
e.g. My nan was green fingered. I must get it from her.
- have itchy feet – have a strong desire to move/travel
e.g. I’ve got itchy feet! I’ve outgrown my town and I need a new challenge.
- have one too many – have too much alcohol
e.g. I had one too many last night, I can’t remember getting home.
- have one’s back against the wall – you are in a difficult situation and have no other options
e.g. I’m in so much debt, my back is against the wall. The bailiffs are coming tomorrow.
- have one’s cake and eat it – enjoy two things that contradict each other
e.g. You can’t have your cake and eat it. It’s uni or travelling, not both.
- have one’s fingers in lots of pies – be involved in many different things
e.g. She does yoga, Pilates, running and karate. That woman has her fingers in lots of pies.
- have one’s foot in the door – start working for a company in a low position in the hope of getting promoted
e.g. I’d love to get my foot in the door at Google.
- have one’s head in the clouds – someone is unaware/living in a dream world
e.g. Leon’s head is in the clouds, he won’t be a millionaire by the time he’s 25.
- have one’s head screwed on – be sensible, have common sense
e.g. My son has his head screwed on, but my daughter has a crazy side.
- have one’s heart in the right place – have good intentions
e.g. Her heart is in the right place, but I need a woman with more fire in her belly.
- have one’s moments – sometimes a person can be funny/clever/interesting/successful etc.
e.g. Robson has his moments, but he wasn’t worth £2 million.
- have one’s nose in a book – people who love and always seem to be reading
e.g. I don’t mind long journeys, I’ll just have my nose in a good book.
- have one’s work cut out – a hard/difficult job/task
e.g. Our colleague is on holiday, so we have our work cut out this week.
- have second thoughts – start to doubt a decision you have made
e.g. I’m having second thoughts about living in Mexico, it’s too far from home.
- have someone’s guts for garters – severely punish someone
e.g. My boy has taken my Porsche without permission, I’ll have his guts for garters.
- have someone’s number – realise someone’s true intentions
e.g. The girl I’m dating only wants to see me if I buy her a present. I’ve got her number.
- have something on – wear something
e.g. Can you give this to Steven? He has a bright orange shirt on and jet black hair.
- have something to hand – nearby, easily accessible
e.g. I’ve got my details to hand. When the bank call, I’ll tell them.
- have the floor – the person speaking in a discussion/debate
e.g. I’ve got a few more points to go through then you can have the floor.
- have the guts – be brave enough to do something
e.g. We haven’t got the guts to tell mum we hate her cooking.
- have the hots for – be sexually attracted to someone
e.g. I used to have the hots for him but not anymore, he disgusts me.
- have the makings of – something a person has the necessary qualities to become that thing
e.g. Her drafts are good, she has the makings of a successful author.
- have the time of one’s life – have a lot of fun, thoroughly enjoy yourself
e.g. The dog is having the time of his life in the forest.
- have the travel bug – have a strong desire/an urge to travel
e.g. I’ve had the travel bug for 10 years. I don’t think I’ll ever stop travelling.
- have the upper hand – gain an advantage
e.g. My brother always has the upper hand when we fight. He is much bigger than me.
- have thick skin – you don’t easily get upset by criticism/insults
e.g. You need to be thick skinned if you want to become a politician.
- have time on one’s hands – have spare/extra time with nothing to do
e.g. I have no time on my hands since my son was born.
- have time on one’s side – have plenty of time to do something
e.g. Let’s stop for a coffee, we’ve still got time on our side.
- have two left feet – you can’t dance
e.g. Jasper asked me to the prom. I turned him down as he has two left feet.
- haven’t got a leg to stand on – have no proof/evidence to justify your actions
e.g. The key witness has arrived, the suspect doesn’t have a leg to stand on.
- haven’t got two pennies to rub together – very poor
e.g. My family didn’t have two pennies to rub together when I was a child. Now, I’m a millionaire.
- haven’t got the stomach for something – not brave enough to do something unpleasant or daring
e.g. I couldn’t be a surgeon, I haven’t got the stomach for it.
- only have eyes for – be interested in one particular person
e.g. Noah only has eyes for Letitia, but she’s moving to Italy.
Let’s see these idioms with pictures and meaning using real-life scenarios.
Hey, did you know the verb ‘have’ has many phrasal verbs. Since you like idioms and phrases, you obviously want to improve your fluency and speak like a native.
Am I right?
I thought you might like to learn the phrasal verbs with ‘have‘ too. They are very common in informal English and great to know/be able to understand if you happen to be speaking to a native. We use them all the time, like literally ALL the time.