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Have Left: Meaning, Grammar, and Correct Usage

It’s easy to get tense when trying to figure out English tenses, considering we have so many of them! Also, figuring out when and how to use each one can get confusing. For example, is it okay to say “have left”?

We can say “have left” in the correct context, such as in the present perfect tense or future perfect tense where “have” is the helping verb and “left” is the past participle of “leave.” Sometimes, we use “have left” to refer to how much of something remains. Another less common use is when we use “have” as the main verb and “left” refers to direction. 

This article will look at what “have left” means and how its different usages can impact meaning. We will also explore auxiliary or helping verbs and learn more about the perfect tenses. Finally, we will look at tips on how to use them correctly and avoid mistakes.

Is it Correct to Say Have Left?

“Have left” is correct when you use it correctly. Most often, “have” is the helping or auxiliary verb we use with the main verb “left,” the past participle of the verb “leave.”

We can use “have left” in the present perfect tense or “will have left” in the future perfect tense.  In some scenarios, “have” is the main verb followed by the adjective “left,” as in the phrase, “intersections have left-turn signals.” This is also correct. 

What Does “Have Left” Mean?

“Have left” can mean different things when we use it in other contexts as well as with the various tenses. For example, the verb “left” can mean “to go away from a place or person,” or it can refer to “what is remaining” as an adjective. Thus, “have left” can also mean something different in each case. 

Consider some of the following examples.

  • The Johnsons have left for dinner already. 

Here, the clause uses “left” with the meaning “going away from one place to another” — in this case, where the Johnsons have gone for dinner. 

  • The Johnsons will have left their home by eight o’clock. 

In this sentence, “have left” again refers to “going away,” and the addition of “will” before “have” makes it the future perfect tense to indicate that it is in the future. It is further specified by a time, “eight o’clock.”

  • The Johnsons have left their home to charity. 

This example uses “have left” in the sense of “bequeathing” or “transferring something for somebody” and indicates that the Johnsons donated their home to a charity. 

  • The recent winds have left the Johnsons’ gardens in a mess.

The above sentence uses “have left” in the sense of the verb “leave” to mean “cause [someone or something] to be in a particular state or position.” In this case, the rains have caused the gardens to be in a bad state. 

  • This is all the Johnsons have left with them.

In the above example, the word “left” means “what is remaining” with the Johnsons at this statement’s point of time. Thus, here it works as an adjective with “have” becoming the main verb (source). 

Note that while Merriam-Webster does not list this specific meaning of the word “left” as an adjective, it does define “leftover” as an adjective with the meaning “something unused or unconsumed” (source).

In other words, “leftover” means something that is remaining, similar to the verbal phrase “be left over,” which means “to remain when all that is needed is used up” (source). For example, “There was lots of food left over after the party” versus “There was a lot of leftover food from the party.”

We could also say, “There was lots of food left after the party,” using “left” as a verbal adjective. We form many adjectives in English from past or present participles, and participles are verbals that function as adjectives, so we might argue that left could be a verb or an adjective here (source).

In the final example, though, “left” is definitely an adjective.

  • All the intersections leading to the Johnsons home have leftturn signals

Here, “have” is the main verb indicating possession, and the adjective “left” describes the direct object “turn signals.”

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“Have” vs. “Had” vs. “Has” vs. “Will Have” Left

Let us look at when it is correct to use each of these different forms of the helping verb “have” with “left.” 

For example, is it correct to say the following sentence?

  • I have left my eyeglasses at home, so I couldn’t read the menu.

Since “have left” is the present perfect tense, we cannot use it with “couldn’t” in the second part of the sentence, which indicates the past tense. 

The correct form of “have left” in this case is its past perfect form, as in:

  • I had left my eyeglasses at home, so I couldn’t read the menu.

Or we can simply leave out the helping verb here and say:

  • I left my eyeglasses at home, so I couldn’t read the menu.

However, using “had left” indicates that the event happened in the past, while not using the helping verb “have/had” and simply saying “left” refers to something happening more recently.

The below table shows us the different ways we use “have” with the main verb “left” to indicate different perfect tenses. Note that the future perfect tense also requires the use of “will” or “shall” along with “have.” 

First Person SingularSecond Person SingularThird Person SingularPlural
Present PerfectI have leftYou have leftShe has left We/they have left 
Past PerfectI had leftYou had leftShe had leftWe/they had left 
Future PerfectI will have leftYou will have leftShe will have leftWe/they will have left

For more on using verb forms of “have” with main verbs, check out “When Do We Use ‘Has Left’ or ‘Had Left’?

Auxiliary Verbs: How They Help

Auxiliary verbs function before main verbs and help form the various tenses, moods, and voices of the main verbs. Grammarians also call them “helping verbs” as they help the main verb by adding grammatical or functional meaning to the phrase or sentence. 

The principal helping verbs arebe,” “do,” and “have.” Other examples include modal auxiliary verbs like “can,” “may,” “shall,” or “will,” and they help express necessity, possibility, intention, or ability (source).

More About “Be,” “Do,” and “Have”

We can use  “be,” “do,” and “have” as main verbs and auxiliary or helping verbs. For example, we used “have” as a helping verb with the main verb “left” in the previous section. Let us look at the three principal helping verbs and how we use them.

Helping Verbs and Their Forms

We use “be” to express the continuous tense and form the passive voice. We use “do” to form negative and interrogative sentences with other verbs and provide emphasis. Meanwhile, we use “have” to create the perfect tenses.

Each of these verbs takes on different forms depending on where we use them. See below for the same:

  • Be: am, are, be, been, being, is, was, were
  • Do: Did, does, do 
  • Have: Had, has, having, have

How Helping Verbs Help to Denote Tense, Mood, and Voice

For tense, different forms of the helping verbs help the reader figure out the time of the subject’s action. For example:

  • I am reading. (present)
  • We were reading. (past)
  • She had read the book. (past perfect)
  • They have been reading their books. (present perfect continuous)
  • He will have read the book by tomorrow. (future perfect)

We will discuss more regarding the perfect tenses in the next section.

Auxiliary verbs also help us express the mood of a sentence. For example:

  • She doesn’t like chocolates. (to form a negative sentence)
  • Are you coming?  (to question)
  • John wishes he were going to the concert. (to indicate a wish)
  • I do like this book. (for emphasis) 

Helping verbs help change the voice of a sentence. For example:

  • He read the book. (active voice)
  • The book was read by him. (passive voice)

For more on the different types of verbs, including helping verbs, you may want to check out “Has Been or Had Been: How to Use the Perfect Tense.”

The Perfect Tenses: An Overview

We have three main tenses in English: the past, present, and future tense. In addition, each of these has four categories — simple, perfect, continuous, and perfect continuous (also called perfect progressive) — giving us 12 tenses. We are going to look at the perfect tenses below. 

We use the perfect tenses of verbs to indicate actions or events that are completed (or perfected) at any specific referred time.

Image by Brett Jordan via Unsplash

The Present Perfect Tenses 

The present perfect tense expresses the completion of an action in the recent past. It also indicates how much or how many of the action(s) have been completed. The impact is from the action being completed (source). 

We also use it for past events that occurred at an unspecified time and to express cumulative past history.

Formula: “has” or “have” + past participle of the main verb

  • I have left some dinner for you in the kitchen.
  • John has gone to the library.
  • Sue has visited Disneyland twice.
  • Have you ever eaten sushi?

The present perfect continuous tense indicates ongoing events that started in the past and continue right up to the present or have very recently finished. Thus, the impact is from the action itself and not status. In addition, we can use it to indicate temporary actions as well as ongoing single or repeated actions.

Formula: “has” or “have” + “been” + main verb + “ing”

  • You have been writing all day.
  • I have been cooking all day; that’s why the kitchen is a mess. 
  • We have been eating out a lot recently.  
  • He has been running the Boston marathon for a decade. 

Note that we use the present perfect and not its continuous form with verbs that state a fact rather than an action (know, agree, forget). We call these stative verbs. 

  • We have known him since he was a child. (correct)
  • We have been knowing him since he was a child. (incorrect)

The Past Perfect Tenses

The past perfect tense talks about actions or events that happened before another action or event or a particular point of time in the past. We use it to focus on the result of the actions. In addition, we use the past perfect instead of its continuous form with stative verbs.

Formula: “had” + past participle of the main verb

  • She had left when we arrived.
  • They had known each other for about five years before they got married.

The past perfect continuous tense talks about actions or events that began in the past and continued for some time before another action or event in the past. We use it to focus on the duration of the action.

Formula: “had” + “been” + main verb + “ing”

  • John had been playing the flute for 10 years before he got to play a solo.
  • He failed the test as he had not been attending classes.

To read more about the past and present perfect tenses, check out our article, “Has Been or Had Been: How to Use the Perfect Tense.”

The Perfect Future Tenses

We use the future perfect tense to indicate actions or events that will have happened by a certain time in the future or before other future events. Like with the other perfect tenses, this focuses on the results of the action, and we use it with stative verbs.

Formula: “will have” + past participle of the main verb

  • She will have written the letter to her mom by this time tomorrow.
  • The contractors will have finished building the house by the time the furniture arrives.

The future perfect continuous tense indicates an action that continues for some time before ending or up to a certain future point of time (source). It focuses on the duration of the action, as with the other tenses. This article was written for

Formula: “will have been” + main verb + “ing”

  • When my parents arrive, I will have been studying for five hours.
  • They would have been traveling for five weeks straight by the end of this month.

Final Thoughts

We can use the phrase “have left” correctly in a few different ways. These include the present perfect tenses and the future perfect tenses. 

In very specific scenarios, like referring to direction, we use “have” as a main verb with the word “left,” which most often functions as an adjective. Sometimes, we can use “left” as a verbal adjective meaning “remaining.”

Remember that all three of the perfect tenses have one thing in common: they use the past participle of the main verb with the auxiliary verb “have” in any one of its forms (“have,” “has,” or “had”). Thus, once you get the hang of the perfect tenses, you can write perfectly whether you refer to the past, present, or future.