What do we mean when we use “had left” and “has left” in a sentence, and how are they different from one another? For instance, how do we distinguish “left” from a verb or adjective? Also, when we want to speak of someone’s departure or of something we have leftover, is it “has left” or “had left”?
We use “had left” for any subject in the past tense and “has left” for he/she/it subjects in the present tense. “Left” is the past tense version of “leave,” which is a verb that means “to depart.” In contrast, “left” can also be an adjective that refers to how much of something remains from a previous quantity.
Continue reading for a breakdown of the usage of these terms, more information on the verb and adjective “left,” the differences between “had” and “has,” and more!
What’s the Difference Between “Had Left” and “Has Left”?
There are two central differences between “had left” and “has left.” The first is the tenses in which we use them. We use “had” in the past tense, while we use “has” in the present tense.
The second difference is in the grammatical person. We use the present tense “has” with second-person he/she/it subjects. Meanwhile, we use the past tense “had” with first-, second-, and third-person I/you/we/he/she/it subjects.
We use “had” and “has” alike as auxiliary verbs in the “had/has left” context. Auxiliary verbs accompany other verbs to express person, quantity, mood, or tense (source). “Has” and “had” assist the main verb “left” by giving us more information about the conditions surrounding the action “left.”
“Left” is the past tense version of “leave,” which has several meanings, though we use it in this context to mean “depart.” “Left” in these phrases indicates that someone or something has made a departure prior to someone making the statement.
Even though “left” is a past tense verb, we use “has” and “had” to offer further information about when the action (or the main verb) occurred. We are speaking about a presently or recently completed action when we say someone “has left,” and we are referring to a moment from the past when we say someone “had left.”
Had Left or Has Left the Company
When we discuss a person’s departure from a company or workplace, both of the above terms are grammatically correct but have slightly different meanings.
We would say or write that an individual “had left the company” if we were discussing old information. However, to use “had left” requires that the individual left the company at an earlier time in the past, and we are presently referring to that prior event.
We would say or write that an individual “has left the company” when discussing new information. To use “has left” requires that the individual left the company at some point recently, and we are just now learning this information.
Had Left or Has Left for the Day
When we discuss a person’s departure from a location, “had left for the day” and “has left for the day” are both grammatically correct but also have slightly different meanings. We can follow the same rules from the previous section.
The “for the day” helps us out significantly in determining whether to use “had” or “has” because we have specific parameters for what to consider the present and past.
We would use “has left for the day” if someone left today and “had left for the day” if we are talking about any day before today. This rule can also apply to “for the moment,” “for the month,” “for the year,” and other units of time.
Usually, we use the phrases “had left for the day” and “has left for the day” to refer to someone who is regularly at the location from which they’ve left. “Left for the day” often implies that this person is at this location on a routine basis and will more than likely be back tomorrow or another day soon.
Had to Leave or Had to Left
When we discuss a person’s departure from a location, “had to leave” is grammatically correct while “had to left” is not.
“Had to” is an example of a modal verb, which is a type of auxiliary verb that adds a quality to the statement, such as urgency or obligation.
A modal verb differs from a standard auxiliary verb since standard auxiliary verbs mostly provide information about the person, quantity, mood, and tense. In contrast, modal verbs give information on other conditions, such as conditions of necessity, ability, expectation, or permission (source).
We combine “had” or “have” with “to” to form the modal verb unit “had to/have to,” which can communicate obligation. When a verb follows this type of auxiliary helping verb, the second verb must be in the simple or root form.
To express urgency, necessity, or obligation, we would use the modal verb “had to” with the root of “left,” which is “leave.” “Had to” is already in the past tense, so we can get away with using the root “leave” and still communicate that this event took place in the past.
To say that someone “left” differs from saying someone “had to leave.” “Had to leave” signifies an urgency in the person’s departure.
The Optional Had/Has
In many of these examples, using the auxiliary verb “had” and “has” with the past tense “left” is optional. This mostly applies until an additional condition makes it necessary for us to modify the verb “left” with an auxiliary verb.
We can often communicate the central meaning — that someone left at some point before the present moment — without requiring an auxiliary verb.
- She left for the day.
- She has left for the day.
- She had left for the day.
There are many potential scenarios in the earlier examples where we can use “She left for the day” instead of the other two examples and still communicate the same meaning. Likewise, the other context provided within the rest of the conversation can communicate whether we are discussing the recent past or the non-recent past.
However, between “had” and “has,” “had” is the more difficult auxiliary verb to skip. This is because of where “had” places its emphasis, in that it emphasizes the event in addition to the period of time that came after. This emphasis is necessary if our focus is on the event as an artifact in time.
However, we can optionally skip using the word “had” as long as we include supporting information elsewhere in the sentence to communicate that this was a past event.
- She had left the company.
- She left the company in October of 2020.
The Word “Have”
“Had” and “has” are both variations of the root word “have.” “Have” has several definitions, including to possess something, show a quality or feature of something, or show a relationship (source).
“Has” is the second-person he/she/it version of “have.” We use both “has” and “have” for the present tense.
When using the past tense, “have” becomes “had.” We use “had,” the past simple, past participle variation of “have,” for first-, second-, and third-person. We combine “had” with the past participle of other verbs to indicate the present perfect.
The word “have” and its variants can serve as either transitive verbs or as auxiliary verbs. When we use them as transitive verbs, they show a subject’s ownership or possession of something.
|Person + Tense||Personal Pronoun||Verb||Object|
|First Person Present||I/We||have||long hair.|
|Second Person Present||You||have||long hair.|
|Third Person Present||He/she/it||has||long hair.|
|First Person Past||I/We||had||long hair.|
|Second Person Past||You||had||long hair.|
|Third Person Past||He/She/It||had||long hair.|
We combine the auxiliary verb “has” and its variants with past participle verbs to provide more details about the person, place, time, or mood.
- Have you left yet?
- She has not left yet.
- She had felt uneasy.
For more in-depth information on the verb “has” and its variations, follow this link to “Have Run or Had Run: When to Use the Proper Past Tense.”
The Verb Leave
The verb “leave” has several definitions. It can mean the act of going away, as in “We leave the store,” or for something to remain behind, as in “Leave me here” (source).
We use “leave,” like all simple verbs, for the present tense. It remains intact when we use it in the first- and third-person present tense. But when we use the second-person present tense form, we tack on an “s” to the end of the verb.
First- and Third-Person Present: I/You/We leave the house.
Second-Person Present: She/He/It leaves the house.
For the future tense, we combine the word “will” with a simple verb. We say “will leave” to form the simple future tense, and we use this for first-, second-, and third-persons.
“Left” is the past tense and past participle of the verb “leave.”
Third-Person Present: We leave the house.
Third-Person Past: We left the house.
Similar to the word “had,” we use “left” regardless of first-, second-, or third-person.
First- and Third-Person Past: I/You/We left the house.
Second-Person Past: She/He/It left the house.
Left as an Adjective
As we went over earlier, one definition of the word “leave” is for something to remain behind. Since this sounds contrary to the other definitions of this word, a helpful way to think of this is to imagine the units that were left behind as units that “took leave” or separated from the majority.
The past tense verb “left” often indicates that something remains behind, but we use it more as an adjective than as a verb. When this happens, “had” and “has” switch from being the auxiliary verb to the main verb, and “left” picks up a role as a descriptive term for an object.
Left as a Verb: We left two tomatoes.
Left as an Adjective: We had two tomatoes left.
Be careful not to confuse this “left” adjective, which is synonymous with the word “remaining,” with the directional adjective “left,” as in the left knee, the left eye, etc.
We can optionally combine “left” with the word “over,” and the meaning remains the same.
We had two tomatoes left(over).
However, depending on where we place the adjectives “left” or “leftover” relative to the object, the -over can switch from being optional to necessary.
We can use “left” or “leftover” interchangeably if we place them after an object. However, if we place the words before the object, we must combine the words to form one unit into “leftover,” as “left” on its own would not work.
After the object: I had two tomatoes left./I had two tomatoes leftover.
Before the object: I had two leftover tomatoes.
We consider “leftover” to be a true adjective, whereas “left” is a verb that functions as an adjective. Therefore, we can use the plural “leftovers” as a noun to take the place of the object altogether.
Adjective: I brought you some leftover dinner.
Noun: I brought you some leftovers.
“Do,” “Be,” and “Have” Verbs as Helping Verbs and the Perfect Tenses
We often refer to auxiliary verbs as “helping verbs,” which split into three main categories: “do, be, have” verbs, modal verbs, and two-word modal verbs. “Do,” “be,” and “have” combine with other verbs to form questions, create negating phrases, and alter tenses (source).
We can use “do,” “does,” or “did” to form questions. We can use “do” verbs to add emphasis to a statement, suggesting a strong desire to partake in something:
- I do want to go to the movie theater.
We can add “not” after “do” verbs to create a negating statement:
- I do not want to go to the movie theater.
We use “be” verbs to demonstrate the continuous tense when we combine “is/was/will be” + a main verb with an -ing ending. In addition, we can use “be” verbs to create the passive voice by combining the “be” helping verbs with past-participle verbs.
We can also use “have” verbs to form questions and create the passive voice. Like the “be” verbs, we can use “have” verbs to create the passive voice. However, “have” verbs do something unique that the other two don’t — the “have” verbs set up a unique verb tense known as the perfect tense.
The Perfect Tenses
In grammar, we use the word “perfect” to denote a verb action that someone or something has completed (source). We can use the perfect tense in the past, present, or future tenses, for which we’d use “had, has, will have,” respectively.
“Had left” and “has left” are examples of perfect tenses. We consider “had left” to be in the past perfect tense because it refers to a completed action from a point in the non-recent past. We consider “has left” to be in the present perfect tense because we are referring to a completed action in the present or in the recent past.
The difference between the recent past and the non-recent past depends on context, but for many cases, we can estimate the recent past to be within a day or two.
Today: She has applied for a new job.
Three Months Ago: She had applied for a new job.
The difference is whether we are focusing on the action itself or the action in addition to the events and duration of time after the action.
Funnily enough, we can combine the “have” verbs with the past-participle forms of each of the three helping verbs we just focused on. So, for example, we can connect “have” with “done,” “been,” or “had” to create perfect statements.
They become the main verbs, while “have” continues to be an auxiliary. This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
For more information on perfect tenses and more, follow this link to read “Has Been or Had Been: How to Use the Perfect Tense.”
For a quick recap, “had left” and “has left” are verb combinations, where “had” and “has” are auxiliary verbs that supplement the main verb “left.”
When we use “had left” and “has left” as verbs, we suggest the present or past departure of something or someone. Thus, we use “had left” for the past perfect first-, second-, and third-person verb form, and we use “has left” for the present perfect third-person.
We can also use “had left” and “has left” as verb-and-adjective combinations instead of as double verb combinations. “Had” and “has” become the main verb, meaning “possess,” and we use “left” as an adjective to modify and describe an object — specifically, to demonstrate that some quantity of something remains behind.
When we use “left” as an adjective before the object, we must use “leftover,” but when we use “left” after the object, we can use either “left” or “leftover.”