What’s the difference between иметь and у меня есть?

When you want to talk about something that someone has, the appropriate translation in most everyday contexts would be у меня (есть)… or у меня… – literally translated as by me (there is).

For example:

I have an apple. (Literal translation: By me, (there is) apple).У меня (есть) яблоко. ✅

My stomach hurts, or I have stomach pain. – У меня болит живот. ✅

I have an interview today. – У меня сегодня собеседование. ✅

We have an exam today. – У нас сегодня экзамен. ✅

They have a car. – У них есть машина. ✅

The verb иметь is a formal variant of the verb to have and using it in the construction above would sound awkward to a native speaker. Think of it as the equivalent of the English verb to possess.

I have an apple. – Я имею яблоко. ❌

Below you will find the limited range of contexts in which it is appropriate to use the verb иметь.

He is fully authorised to take that decision . (Literal translation: He has the full right to take that decision) – Он имеет полное право принять это решение. ✅

We had the good fortune of being raised in a loving environment. – Мы имели счастье расти в любящей обстановке. ✅

I have a legal right to stop by the apartment at any time. – Я имею законное право заходить в квартиру в любое время. ✅

I have the honour of introducing you to our new director,or It is my honour to introduce you to our new director. – Я имею честь представить вам нашего нового директора. ✅

I have no idea, or I don’t know (Literal translation: I, idea don’t have) – Я понятия не имею

I mean… or I am referring to… – Я имею ввиду… ✅

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