Is it gramatically correct to say 'She said that she hadn't got any money?


In MyGrammarLab Elementary A1/A2 by Mark Foley and Diane Hall Pearson 2012 I came across the following example sentence in the unit covering Reported Speech statements: 'I haven't got any money.' - She said she hadn't got any money.

In all the texbooks I have ever read they say that we form the negative past simple of any verb with the auxiliary did for all persons and the particle 'not'. Somehow it is not the case here. And they also teach us that the form of 'to have got' in the past simple tense is 'had' NOT 'had got'. So, my question is: is it grammatically correct (because I am interested whether such a sentence would be penalised at any EFL exam a student might take) to make the above changes or not?

The task of the exersice I am citing here is the following: Complete the reported statements with verbs, pronouns or possessives.

In my opinion it is rather unreasonable to give such a controversial example sentence at such a level bearing in mind that students have been exposed to Reported Speech for the first time.


Posted 2016-05-13T06:58:30.400

Reputation: 1 196

a) Best never to teach reported speech (ok to teach reporting verbs though). b) That textbook is badly graded. This not a sensible kind of exercise for this level. That sentence is perfectly grammatical. So long as the people setting or marking the exam are native speakers, no student would get penalised for using it. – Araucaria - Not here any more. – 2016-05-13T23:02:06.300

In terms of verb forms, "have got" is best seen as an idiomatic use of the present perfect with GET, and had got the past perfect perfect with GET. – Araucaria - Not here any more. – 2016-05-13T23:05:45.833

That sentence sounds terrible in American English, which would use had gotten = had obtained. – Alan Carmack – 2016-05-14T02:23:22.450


This reminded me of my old question about "why had you to leave early?"

– CowperKettle – 2016-05-14T06:41:01.730



A good rule of thumb is to remember that have got can be used to mean have1.

1(Though it's very likely that haven't got any money in the example should mean "doesn't have any money", the alternate interpretation in BrE, "haven't obtained/received any money", can't be ruled out. For more details, see the discussion in comments under this answer.)

One interesting point made in The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (CGEL) on page 112 (which is along the same lines as given in other answers here) is that,

In both varieties [of have got, in BrE and AmE], however, the perfect origin of have got is reflected in the fact that the have component of it is an auxiliary, absolutely incompatible with do (*We don't have got enough tea).
(Note that an asterisk (*) denotes ungrammatical usage.)

Besides mentioning that have got is informal and characteristically BrE, CGEL also mentions that it's usually used in the present tense. From the same page:

Have got is restricted to informal style, but is otherwise very common, especially in BrE. The have or have got has no past participle form (*She had had got a Ph.D.): in this respect it is like the ordinary perfect auxiliary. Unlike the perfect have, however, the idiomatic have also has no gerund-participle: %She almost regrets having got a Ph.D. has only the non-idiomatic meaning "having obtained", and hence requires gotten in AmE. The plain form is very marginal: ?She may have got plenty of money but that doesn't mean she can push us around. The preterite [i.e., the past form] is certainly possible (She had got too much work to do), but it is fairly uncommon: have got occurs predominantly in the present tense.
(% indicates the grammatical status is grammatical in some dialect(s) only, and ? of questionable grammaticality.)

So, here is my take-home message:
(Note that all have gots below refer to have got when it's used to mean "have".)

  • have got can mean have (but remember that you can't always use have got for have),
  • have in have got is an auxiliary verb (so She said she hadn't got any money is fine);
  • it's fairly uncommon to use have got in the past tense (so the advice "the form of 'to have got' in the past simple tense is 'had' NOT 'had got'" is sound, even though you can use had as well),
  • but above all, remember that have got is informal, and
  • it's always safe to write have when you mean have got. ;-)

Damkerng T.

Posted 2016-05-13T06:58:30.400

Reputation: 27 649

So, in my example above is 'hadn't got' a past simple or a past perfect verb form? – Yukatan – 2016-05-13T11:01:16.473

Hadn't (in our case) is the past form of haven't. The same goes with hadn't got, when it's used to mean "didn't have", it is the past form of haven't got. Note that haven't got/hadn't got in BrE can be used to mean "haven't received/hadn't received", where it has to be haven't gotten/hadn't gotten in AmE. – Damkerng T. – 2016-05-13T11:07:20.303

#Sydney says it is past perfect. Does his/her explanation sound plausible to you? – Yukatan – 2016-05-13T11:11:43.727

In reporting I haven't got any money as She said she hadn't got any money? I don't think so. Then again, I understand that the form is ambiguous, so it's possible that some speakers even got confused by its form (the same goes with some other confusions caused by would and had when it's shorten as 'd; e.g. some speakers think 'd rather is had rather, some think it's would rather), but if you follow CGEL's explanation closely, you will see that it's much more logical to consider this hadn't got as its past form (i.e., preterite). – Damkerng T. – 2016-05-13T11:19:46.710

(FWIW, I'm the one who upvoted Sydney's answer. In my opinion, it doesn't matter much which form it is. The more important thing to me is the meaning and usage.) – Damkerng T. – 2016-05-13T11:23:51.400

it does mean which form it is for me because I will have to explain it ti my elementary students and trust me they would not like to hear all those ambiguous explanations from me – Yukatan – 2016-05-13T11:25:54.360

@Yukatan If a careful (but casual) analysis is required, you could try this argument. We know that have got means have in our example. In other words, her sentence "I haven't got any money." is the same as "I don't have any money." It follows that in our reported speech, She said (that) she hadn't got any money is the same as She said (that) she didn't have any money. Thus, consequently, it's logical to conclude that hadn't got is in the past tense (rather than the past perfect). – Damkerng T. – 2016-05-13T11:34:38.937

1My understanding is that in "she said she hadn't got any money", we can interpret "hadn't got" to be the past simple of "haven't got", in which case she was saying that there was no money in her pocket at the time she spoke. Alternatively we can interpret it as the past perfect of "got", in which case she was saying that at time of speaking she had not received any money (that is, "get" in the sense of acquire, where an American would say "hadn't gotten"). All you can really do to avoid explaining the ambiguity is rely on context to ignore the one that doesn't apply in a particular case. – Steve Jessop – 2016-05-13T13:08:41.597

(where I say "my understanding" -- I'm a native speaker of British English so I'm confident that there is potential ambiguity there, but my ability to formally analyse English grammar is fairly weak) – Steve Jessop – 2016-05-13T13:11:02.110

1@SteveJessop Come to think of it, I think you're right. The AmE in me automatically and unconsciously overlooked that interpretation. I'm thinking that because hadn't got as the past form of haven't got is rare (according to CGEL), maybe in the OP's context, it's really used to mean hadn't/haven't received. – Damkerng T. – 2016-05-13T13:18:43.490

I'll leave this answer here even though I probably misinterpreted the intended meaning in the OP's context, mainly because I think the quoted text (from CGEL) is useful. – Damkerng T. – 2016-05-13T13:21:28.613

2And in practice we do sometimes work around this ambiguity. For example we'll say "When am I going to get my paycheck?" quite happily, but will generally (always?) say "I haven't been paid" or "I haven't had my paycheck" in preference to trying to use "I haven't got my paycheck" as a present perfect, because we know it'll sound like present tense "have got". – Steve Jessop – 2016-05-13T13:25:01.700

@SteveJessop Sadly, I couldn't find that sentence on the web (I was hoping that I might be able to find it in Google Books). I only found She said she hadn't got any money in a joke and in a piece of news! (Both are clearly in the past tense, though.) – Damkerng T. – 2016-05-13T13:37:19.177

3So, in the context of the question, converting "I haven't got any money" (the actual words spoken) to "She said she hadn't got any money" (reported speech), they are definitely using the simple past of "haven't got" provided we assume that "I haven't got" is the present tense. Only if "I haven't got" is a present perfect would we convert it to past perfect "she hadn't got" in reported speech, and present perfect "I haven't got" is rare-to-non-existent anyway, and makes less sense than present tense when applied to "any money". – Steve Jessop – 2016-05-13T13:42:47.903

@SteveJessop What's oddest to me in this question is that all the three answerers clearly share the same interpretation of the OP's sentence, and mine's gotten zero votes. Maybe it's because my answer is too long, and I clearly admit that it's possible that my interpretation of the intended meaning of the book's authors, how unlikely it is, could be incorrect. :D – Damkerng T. – 2016-05-13T13:56:40.240


  • 1 for the effort. " The preterite [i.e., the past form] is certainly possible (She has got too much work to do)" - a possible typo? Shouldn't it be "had got"?
  • < – CowperKettle – 2016-05-13T17:10:24.557

    Is it meant to be ;had got' in the following example of yours - The preterite [i.e., the past form] is certainly possible (She has got too much work to do)? @DamkerngT. – Yukatan – 2016-05-13T20:12:11.377

    Oh, it was my typo! Sorry about that, Yukatan! Thanks for pointing that out, CowperKettle! Thanks for fixing it, snail plane! – Damkerng T. – 2016-05-14T01:29:34.117


    It's more British English than American:

    "As though she hadn't got enough V. P. of her own! "

    BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley

    Theoretically, 'haven't got' changes to 'hadn't got', and 'don't have' changes

    to 'didn't have'.

    It might depend on whether the exam is American or British.

    Cathy Gartaganis

    Posted 2016-05-13T06:58:30.400

    Reputation: 757

    a British one. Theoretically anything is possible; what I am trying to find out here is whether it is safe to use such like form at any reliable exam or to be on the safe side and opt out of it? – Yukatan – 2016-05-13T11:08:22.557

    @Yukatan On a British exam follow haven't got - hadn't got. – Cathy Gartaganis – 2016-05-13T12:15:38.210

    says who? I would rather you cited a reliable source. – Yukatan – 2016-05-13T12:19:08.540

    @Yukatan If I find a specific reference, besides the literary one I provided, I'll post it. – Cathy Gartaganis – 2016-05-13T12:22:28.950

    2I would say thank you to you but the site tells me not to. I look forward to your answer. – Yukatan – 2016-05-13T13:03:51.917

    @Yukatan I've been unable to find such a reference on the Internet. My teaching books are in another city. – Cathy Gartaganis – 2016-05-13T13:05:15.390

    1@Yukatan If you would like a reliable source, please see the Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English (Biber et al. 1999) starting on pages 161 and 215. – snailplane – 2016-05-13T22:53:37.820


    The general rule that "we form the negative past simple of any verb with the auxiliary did for all persons and the particle 'not'" does not apply to verb 'be' and modal verbs (always) and to verb 'have' (for some people, some of the time).

    In present simple, everyone says 'She has some money', most people say 'She doesn't have any money', but some people (usually older, more formal British English speakers) say 'She hasn't any money'. In past simple, everyone says 'She had some money', most say 'She didn't have any money', but some say 'She hadn't any money'.

    Arising from this is the use of 'have/has/had' as the auxiliary verb in perfect verb tenses. 'She's got some money' has the structure of present perfect, but most people use it with a present simple meaning. But the use of 'has' as an auxiliary verb leads to the negative 'She hasn't got any money'. Past perfect is then 'She hadn't got any money', which is what we find in the reported speech sentence you are asking about.

    So the example sentence is correct, but unusual in many varieties of English, and awkward even in those varieties in which it is used. It's a poor choice for an example in a book aimed at learners. 'She said that she didn't have any money' is more common in most varieties of English.


    Posted 2016-05-13T06:58:30.400

    Reputation: 6 681

    "She hadn't got any money" It is perfectly normal and natural in my (British) English. "She didn't have any money", though common, still feels like an American import to me. – Colin Fine – 2016-05-13T10:28:50.790

    If we assume that hadn't got is the past perfect form and not the past simple, another question arises, - according to the same book if the original sentence is written in present simple, one should change the original sentence into the past simple tense not the past perfect tense in the reported speech. What should we do about it? – Yukatan – 2016-05-13T10:57:57.957