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Have you a pen?

  • #1
    Moderators, Arts Moderators Posts: 32,592 mod pickarooney

    It's been pointed out to me that this construction is wrong/archaic/weird/posh in both British and American English and that the accepted way to phrase it is either "Have you got a pen?" or "Do you have a pen?"

    Have I just been imagining that this is the normal way to ask the question all these years or do other (Irish?) people use this syntax?


  • Yes. I have a pen. I'm not sure how that helps with your question, though?


  • Yes, it's something I notice as a non-Irish citizen (I'm Scottish), the way Irish people speak English is full of these little anomalies that people would look at you strangely for in the UK/US.

    'Have you a pen?' is a perfect example. Another one I see a lot is 'you might bring me that' (or some other task), which the first time I heard I thought the person was being very rude / pushy but it just turns out that's how a lot of people would ask someone to do something over here. It's almost like people try and shorten what they need to say into as few words as possible.

    One more weird one I've picked up on that everyone does is if someone asks a question like "Have you a toothbrush?" and I mishear so reply "what?" or "sorry?", then the response will almost always be just one word - "Toothbrush?" Many times over the years I've been in situations like that and I've not quite known what they meant, especially if it's a weird item / situation :pac:

  • I'm guessing that you are from Dundee.

    Am I right?


  • Nope Dumfries (SW Scotland). Why though? :)

  • Nope Dumfries (SW Scotland). Why though? :)

    Apologies - Desperate Dan - the actual cartoon character - was made famous in the Beano comic that was published in Dundee.


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  • A direct translation of "An bhfuil peann agat?" I'd say. It does sound like something peculiar to Hiberno-English sentence construction.
    For what it's worth, Wikipedia suggests the same:

  • "Is pen at you?" :D
    I'm not sure there's anything in that to be honest.

    I've seen in a few places where it was quite common in c. 18th century English so it could be one of those constructions/words that survive in one country after falling into disuse in another.