‘Anybody have’ vs. ‘anybody has’ in questions

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more (PDF Version).

Have you ever heard someone say, “Anybody have an idea how …?”, and wondered whether it should be “anybody has”? Although “anybody” is in the third person singular, and hence the correct verb form used with it must contain an “s” (as in “anybody who has read the book …”), “have” in the situation described above is the only “correct” option. Why?

What we are dealing with here is the so-called conversational deletion. In colloquial English, it is possible to omit certain elements at the beginning of a sentence that are not essential to the overall meaning. For example, we can often read

Hope to hear from you soon!

instead of “I hope to hear from you soon!” in informal email correspondence. “Anybody have” falls into the same category. The deleted word in this case is “does”:

Does anybody have an idea how to get there?

This usage should be completely avoided in formal writing, but it is relatively widespread in spoken language. Trying to “correct” the sentence by using “has” results in something that doesn’t sound natural at all:

Does anybody have any questions? (correct)
Anybody have any questions? (colloquial, avoid in formal language)
Anybody has any questions? (unnatural)

By the way, if you haven’t read my guide on how to avoid the most common mistakes in English, make sure to check it out; it deals with similar topics.

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