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In school, we learn the conjugations of "haben", but "hab" is not one of them. When is "hab" used and is it colloqial?

  • 3
    It is common to a lot of languages that speakers tend to swallow end syllables - Same here. – tofro Jun 14 '17 at 11:32
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Imperative

The form »hab« in fact is an official conjugation of the verb »haben« in standard German. It is one of the two possible versions of the imperative singular (see »haben« in Wiktionary, watch the box on the right). You can use it in sentences like

Habe Angst! = Hab Angst!
Be afraid! (verbatim: Have fear!)

But the most frequent usage is a command that soldiers might hear from their drill sergeants:

Hab Acht!
Attention! (verbatime: Have respect!; »Acht« = old variation of »Achtung« which can mean attention as well as respect)

This singular version also very often is used if more than one soldier is drilled, but of course there also exists the plural version, which is »Habt Acht!«


Colloquial indicative

But there also is a second usage for »hab«, which is not an imperative, but a colloquial (i.e. non-standard) form of the verb in present tense, singular for the 1st person:

Standard: Ich habe dich lieb. - Colloquial: Ich hab dich lieb.
The meaning is in the middle between "I like you" and "I love you". For more details consult the question What’s the difference between “Ich habe dich lieb” and “Ich liebe dich”?.

Since colloquial language almost exclusively exists in spoken language, you hardly will find the colloquial indicative hab in written texts. If it is used in written texts, the omitted e often (but not always) is indicated by an apostrophe:

Ich hab’ dich lieb.

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Yes, its colloquial and heavily dependent on the region. Hab is a sloppy form of

habe

with the trailing e omitted. In writing this is seldom done, and in the rare cases an apostrophe is written instead of the e.

For the imperative singular the form hab is perfectly legal in addition to habe (see [Wiktionary])1, so the e never harms.

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I am surprised that no one has mentioned the most common use of hab in conversation – when two vowels clash. By far the most common spoken use of hab is in habe es - ich hab es getan, etc

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    Which is a colloquial form of the indicative in present tense, singular for the 1st person. Exactly what I described in my answer. But the schwa-sound at the end is omitted also in many other settings: »ich hab geschlafen«, »ich hab keine Angst«, »ich hab mir ein Eis gekauft«, or the example I gave in my answer: »Ich hab dich lieb«. A vowel at the beginning of the next word is nothing special. – Hubert Schölnast Jun 15 '17 at 10:15
  • Should I delete this answer? – Mawg Jun 15 '17 at 11:42
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    This is your decision. If I was you, I would not delete it. Nobody gave -1, but you've got one +1 for this answer (until now). I even think, that most words coming after hab(e) really start with a vowel, since it is very often an indefinite article (»ich hab einen Hund«), which would make the statement »the most common use of hab in conversation – when two vowels clash« right. In my comment I just wanted to show, that this case is nothing special. – Hubert Schölnast Jun 15 '17 at 13:12

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