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Har haft + verb

2020.04.02 | samtalegrammatik.dk

When describing past events, Danish speakers have a choice between several different verbal constructions. For instance, in describing a phone call, you can use either the present perfect har ringet ’have called’ or the past perfect havde ringet ’had called’. Further, you can indicate that the phone call wasn’t completed or that you were not happy with the outcome by adding haft ‘had’. In this way, you can both say jeg har ringet til dem ’I have called them’ and jeg har haft ringet til dem ’I have had called them’. If you choose the last form however, you indicate that you for some reason are not satisfied with the outcome, because e.g. the call was not answered, you were not able to speak to the right person or because the person you talked to could not help with what you needed.

In the example below, B has called and A has picked up. B’s purpose with the phone call is to talk to a third person, Kamilla, but it turns out that she is not home, and A and B therefore begins discussing how B can get a hold of Kamilla. In line 1, B suggests that he can try calling Kamilla again the next day. After a long pause, A suggests in line 4-5 that he instead will tell Kamilla that B har haft ringet. This offer is accepted by B in line 10.

AULing | IkkeHjemmeDruk | l. 82-90 ((phone))

01   B:     Arh:m' så vi jeg (bare) fange hende i morgen→
           “Well then I will just catch her tomorrow”
02   A:     .hnfhh ((sniffles)) (0.2) yes yes↘
           “yes yes”
03          (0.9)
04  A:     M' jeg ka' lige sige at a' du har haft ringet
05          ellers så→
           “I can mention that you have called however so”
06          (0.3)
07   A:     Hvis hun (da) ikk' kommer så sent hjem↘
           “if she isn’t home too late that is”
08   B:     J:a→=
09   A:     =.hhhh [◦(as)◦
10   B:            [Ja:, Det ka' vi oss sige↘
           “yes we can also say that”

This sequence shows how both A and B perceive A’s suggestion as an alternative to B having to call again later. The sequence therefore shows that the conversation participants agree that a person who har haft ringet did not achieve what they wanted and that a person who is told that someone har haft ringet to talk to them, will call this person themself.

This pattern where haft is used to signal that an action is not seen through according to the speaker, seems to be a more general rule than just when it comes to phone calls (even though research on this hypothesis has not yet been conducted). In the example below, Ka and Pi are talking about a document which has dissapeared from Ka’s computer because she was interrupted in her work:

AULing | Kat7 | 265 ((phone))

01   Pi:     men har det været et dokument som du har siddet
02          [ o:g]
            “but has it been a document that you have sat and”
03   Ka:    [ja d]et ha- væ- åbenbart været det dokument jeg
04         ◦har haft siddet◦ o’ arbejdet *på* ◦◦ikke◦◦↘
            “yes it ha- be- apparently been the document I have sat and worked on right”

In line 1, Pi asks about the document and Ka answers in line 3 that it is exactly the document she har haft siddet o’ arbejdet på ’has had sat and worked on’. The example illustrates therefore how har(/havde) haft + verb is used to indicate that the speaker does not view the described action, here Ka’s work with the document, to be finished. It therefore seems that haft generally can be added to a present perfect or past perfect to signal that the discussed action for some reason is not completed.

Sources and further reading

Brøcker (2015b). In this paper, Brøcker describes the differents between saying har/havde ringet and har/havde haft ringet.

Didericksen (1946) briefly describes the phenomenon and calls it double perfect.

Kristiansen et al. (1998) briefly notices that the phenomenon can be related to aspect.

Mål and mæle (1988). A collection of examples on har haft +verb from around 1920 from different parts of the country.

Related entries

Forms > Phrases > Verb phrases and other verbal constructions

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