Possession is generally expressed in Russian using у + genitive case. However, in technical contexts the verb иметь is used, e.g., это уравнение имеет решение or этот многочлен имеет один корень. I have two questions.

  1. Aside from the useful phrase иметь в виду, and the less useful phrase иметь место (I have used the first one a lot, but I've rarely used the second), should иметь be avoided in everyday conversations, or are there some everyday circumstances where иметь does not sound strange besides the two idioms above?

  2. Is there a simple rule of thumb in technical settings where the usage of иметь is acceptable, or does it just come down to personal taste? For example, a native speaker who knows Russian very well (at least the way it was 20 years ago, when he left) told me that the sentences Прямоугольник имеет четыре стороны and Этот прямоугольник имеет высоту 3 метра sound awkward to him (he'd prefer У прямоугольника четыре стороны and Высота этого прямоугольника — 3 метра).

  • Compare "the rectangle possesses four sides" vs "the rectangle has four sides". The latter sounds less formal, more fluid, more colloquial.
    – moonshadow
    Aug 21, 2012 at 11:18

6 Answers 6


1) In simple sentences, it's usually better to use “у subject есть” instead of “subject имеет”. One notable exception is the sentence “Я имею право ...” (“I have a right”), which is used more often than “У меня есть право ...”. However, both variants are common. E.g.,

  Я имею право не отвечать на ваши вопросы. 
  У меня есть право не отвечать на ваши вопросы.

(Perhaps, the first form is more common because it puts more emphasis on the word я.)

Also “иметь” is used when the construction “у ... есть” cannot be used (e.g. in sentences without a subject). For example,

  Хорошо иметь друзей.
  Вам необходимо будет иметь с собой пропуск.
  Что мне нужно иметь с собой?
  Чтобы не иметь проблем с оформлением разрешения, лучше подать документы за 3 месяца.

2) “У прямоугольника четыре стороны” sounds OK. However, “Этот прямоугольник имеет высоту 3 метра” doesn't sound right. Part of the problem is that we usually refer to the dimensions of a rectangle as length (длина) and width (ширина) in Russian. So for example the sentence “прямоугольный параллелепипед имеет высоту 3 метра” sounds much better. (Even in this case, “высота прямоугольного параллелепипеда 3 метра” is better).

In general, in Russian, we very rarely say that an object has (“имеет” or even “у ... есть”) a property. A native speaker cannot say “моя машина имеет красный цвет” (sounds really bad) or “у моего телевизора чёрный цвет” (sounds very awkward). However, one can say “Иодид цинка — химическое соединение с формулой ZnI2, в безводной форме имеет белый цвет и активно поглощает влагу из воздуха” (this sentence is from Russian Wikipedia) because the context is very technical.

  • Хорошо, когда есть друзья!
    – shabunc
    Feb 22, 2021 at 7:59
  1. add at least expressions иметь значение and иметь влияние to the list.
  2. There is none. However, the more formal context is, the better the verb suits. Thus, Каждый круг имеет центр is perfectly OK for math science article or administrative codex, but ill-suited for everyday use. Also keep in mind, that the subject of action is different in these forms and focus slightly shifts to the subject.

By the way, keep in mind, that the verb is sometimes used as substitute for taboo verb.

  • Thanks for the two additional expressions. Concerning your comment on the "subject of action", when you say it is different in this form, do you just mean grammatically (obviously кого/что instead of кого/чего) or something else?
    – KCd
    Aug 21, 2012 at 15:39
  • I meant pure grammar.
    – permeakra
    Aug 21, 2012 at 15:48
  • Can you comment briefly on how иметь is used in place of a taboo verb?
    – KCd
    Oct 21, 2012 at 18:16
  • It may be used in place of verb 'ебать', that can be translated 'to fuck (somebody)' and considered taboo. This gives some expressions, like 'иметь в виду' unexpected deeps sometimes. The derived verb 'поиметь' can be translated as 'to get', but, considering above meaning, can be translated as 'to humiliate' or 'to deceive' in some cases.
    – permeakra
    Oct 22, 2012 at 4:28
  • Whoa...............
    – KCd
    Oct 22, 2012 at 4:53

Иметь смысл - make sense:

Да, это имеет смысл.
Имеет смысл подумать об этом.

  • Ah, yes, I knew that example but forgot about it when I was writing my question.
    – KCd
    Nov 8, 2012 at 0:41

"Possession is generally expressed in Russian using у + genitive case. " - not at all necessary.

"the less useful phrase иметь место ... should иметь be avoided in everyday conversations" - no. :>

Well, "Я имею машину, дом, etc" - ok; but this "иметь" strongly emphasizes precisely the fact of possession. More distinct,hard,may be - agressive. :>

"Я имею жену"... - ok, but it can be interpreted with sexual connotation... but - it depend on your audience and who are they. :> "...собаку" or smth - too.. "машину" f.e. :> https://youtu.be/06BFsQ_28Co :>>

"Я отымел жену" - this "perfect" form have the direct sexual meaning now, not a connotation.

"Этот прямоугольник имеет высоту 3 метра" - absolute ok, the meaning about properties of this rectangle. Only.

" Is there a simple rule ? " - really no :> It's just the Game with the context and your audience - who is it :>

"told me that the sentences Прямоугольник имеет четыре стороны and Этот прямоугольник имеет высоту 3 метра sound awkward to him "

His opinion is the veriest nonsense. Какой-то бред полный... :> For techincal and scientific subjects this "иметь" especially suitable and emphasizes the rigidity of technical definitions :) "Корабль имеет главный калибр 360 мм"

https://youtu.be/uAOL2uOLfkU - "иметь или не иметь" song :)) Ария московского гостя.

but this "иметь" is not inserted anywhere without really semantic reasons, as it is in English - but this is the difference between grammar, its forms. Not semantics.

  • вот, кстати : "Склеротикальные кольца позволяют более точную фокусировку глаз" ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Склеротикальное_кольцо - вот в этой фразе просто режет уши и глаза - отсутствие слова "иметь" после "позволяет" :> this is wrong sentence, the "позволяет иметь" is needed Mar 3, 2021 at 14:52

2) You may say: Прямоугольник имеет четыре стороны, when you teach kids in the lessons. When you say to your friends, you say: У прямоугольника четыре стороны.

The first sentence of this statement, and the second just a statement of fact.

1) Буду иметь в виду - I'll keep that in mind. Used on daily conversation. Example:

  • Меня не будет в городе до выходных. (I will not be in town until the weekend.)
  • Хорошо, я буду иметь это в виду. (Well, I'll keep that in mind.)

Иметь место is an idiom used when you give an explanation of what or things. Used on the educations.


Совокупность преступлений имеет место, когда лицо последовательно совершает несколько преступлений.

  • I know what both иметь в виду (to have in mind) and иметь место (to take place) mean. My first question was about whether there were any other standard situations/idioms where иметь is used in ordinary conversations.
    – KCd
    Aug 21, 2012 at 12:20

Sentences with иметь/имеет sound a little more formal.

For example, if you are reading a math book, or listening to a math lection, you may expect to rather hear

прямоугольник имеет четыре стороны

but if you are talking to someone, you should rather expect to hear

у прямоугольника четыре стороны

Not that the first one is broken or something, but it's pretty much the same in English: you would expect to find "a rectangle contains..." in a book, but to hear "a rectangle has..." in a conversation.

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