In (1) I think had is the only natural verb. Using the continuous form with an ache (toothache, headache, stomach ache) doesn't sound good to me (but I suspect that someone will come up with a context in which it would be acceptable).

In (2), however, either of them work, but the context has to be different.

I found my father lying on the floor clutching his chest and trying to talk. He was having a heart attack. I called 9-1-1 right away. This is looking at the heart attack as an ongoing action.

My father had a heart attack yesterday and I had to call 9-1-1. This is looking at the heart attack as a completed action.
Hello, Ms. Tan,

I'd just like to say that I think Okaasan's response is perfect. Nobody says, "He was having a headache," just as nobody says, "He is having a headache." For whatever reason, it is only "He has a headache" and "He had a headache" that are used.

The heart-attack case is different. As Okaasan explains, we can indeed say, "He was having a heart attack," just as we can say, "He is having a heart attack." We would NOT say, "He has a heart attack."

On the other hand -- oddly enough! -- it is possible to use either "He had a heart attack" or "He was having a heart attack." The former sentence calls attention to the past event as a whole. The latter calls attention to the past event as a process, and would be used only in such contexts as Okaasan has provided.

Best,
David
David, Moderator posted:

Hello, Ms. Tan,

I'd just like to say that I think Okaasan's response is perfect. Nobody says, "He was having a headache," just as nobody says, "He is having a headache." For whatever reason, it is only "He has a headache" and "He had a headache" that are used.

The heart-attack case is different. As Okaasan explains, we can indeed say, "He was having a heart attack," just as we can say, "He is having a heart attack." We would NOT say, "He has a heart attack."

On the other hand -- oddly enough! -- it is possible to use either "He had a heart attack" or "He was having a heart attack." The former sentence calls attention to the past event as a whole. The latter calls attention to the past event as a process, and would be used only in such contexts as Okaasan has provided.

Best,
David

Hi

The heart-attack case is different. As Okaasan explains, we can indeed say, "He was having a heart attack," just as we can say, "He is having a heart attack." We would NOT say, "He has a heart attack."

Why  wouldn't you say "He has a heart attack", please?

Why can't we use "is having" with future meaning in the sentence below?

"I'm having a cat" (="I will have a cat")

Tara,

In this context, the simple present "has" is stative, while the progressive "is having" describes something currently in progress.  Consider these sentences:

3: She has a baby.
4: She's having a baby.

In (3), the baby has already been born.  In (4), the baby is in the process of being born.

5: I'm having a cat.

This sentence is fine if you're talking about a meal plan.  Otherwise, to speak of the present, you should say:

6: I'm having kittens.

There is an old children's rhyme:

Mary had a little lamb
and the midwife was surprised,
but when old MacDonald had a farm
she nearly popped her eyes.

DocV

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