LINGUIST List 7.1402

Wed Oct 9 1996

Sum: _had to_

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <>


  1. hiro-t, Summary: _had to_

Message 1: Summary: _had to_

Date: Tue, 08 Oct 1996 16:34:49 +0200
From: hiro-t <>
Subject: Summary: _had to_

Dear colleagues,
 One of my colleagues in Osaka asked me to post on the List about
the following sentence including an epistemic _had to_ in
mid-September. The below was his query and his summary:

- ---------------------------------------------------------------
> I would like to ask you just one question about the English modal
>_had to_. I have two examples where _had to_ is used in an epistemic

> (1) "When did you last see her?" "I don't know," Newcastle said.
> "It _had to_ be sometime around midnight."

> (2) "What time did you go to bed?" "It must have been two-thirty.
> I took a bottle of Scotch and went up to my rooms. That _had to_
 have been about two."

>I do not know the meaning of "It had to be..." in (1) or that of "That
> had to have been..." in (2). Could you please put these in another
> English?
> I would be very grateful if you would answer this question.

 Soon after that, I received about 30 reponses. Thank you for
answering my question. I would like to express my sincere thanks to
the following people who supplied useful data:

gladney frank y <>
Norval Smith <> (Marina & Anthony Green)
Peter Daniels <>
Geoff Smith <> (Deborah Brownstein)
"Larry Trask" <>
Mark Mandel <>
"REBECCA S. WHEELER" <> (Gary H. Toops)
Virginia Brennan <brennavnctrvax.Vanderbilt.Edu>
Dave Harris <>
rmccallisunmuw1.MUW.Edu (Rick Mc Callister)
"Joseph P. Stemberger" <>
Eleanor Batchelder <>" Cravens) Pearson) (Colin Whiteley)
 Ans van Kemenade <>
Chad D Nilep <> (Larry Gorbet) (Christoph Gutknecht) (Norman Roberts)
Allan Wechsler <>
"Paul Purdom" <>
Charlie Rowe <>
Bruce Despain <> (Mark Hansell-Mai Hansheng)
Karen Davis <>

 Most of the respondents have told me that both _had to_ in (1) and
_had to have been_ in (2) are the same as "must have been". Tom
Cravens has given me the following example:
 (3) When did you cash the check?
	--It had to be(had to have been)Monday. 

As Ginny Brennan has pointed out, we cannot explain why _had to_,
which has past tense morphology, has a present tense meaning.

- --------------------------------------------------------------------
 I(i.e., Tanaka) asked Dr. renaat Declerck and F.R. Palmer about
this usage through e-mail. They immediately gave me the following
answers. Dr. Declerck does not share the same opinion with the
respondents on this List.

- ----------------------------------------------------------------------
Dear Colleague,

I think the answer to your question is as follows. Whereas "must"
expresses present epistemic necessity, "had to" expresses past
epistemic necessity. In other words, "must" represents the conclusion
arrived at as a present one, whereas "had to" represents it as a
conclusion arrived at in the past. (Still in other words, there is a
difference of what I call "temporal focus".) This means that in (1)
"had to" makes clear that when Newcastle saw the woman he realized it
was around midnight. Example (2) is similar, except that "have been"
expresses anteriority: "had to have been" expresses that when the
speaker went to bed (and realized it was two-thirty) he also realized
that he had taken a bottle up to his room at some earlier time, viz. 2
 This would be my answer to your question. Please let me know if you
agree with this or if you have any other comment to make.

With best wishes,

Renaat Declerck

- ---------------------------------------------------------------------
Dear Professor Tanaka,

In my English the forms would be 'must have' -- epistemic necessity
referring to the past -- as it is in the first part of the second

I noted 'have got to' as epistemic in my book Modality and the English
modals (p. 56). I think I also noted somewhere, but I cannot find the
reference, a sentence like 'It had to be there' where 'had to' means
something like 'It WAS epistemically necessary that it was there',
whereas' must have' means 'It IS epistemically necessary that
(something happened in the past)'

It seems that the first writer simply uses 'had to' where I would use
'must have'. The second is rather more interesting. He first uses
'must have'(though, I suppose, he could have used 'had to'), but then
wants to refer to what must have been true at an earlier period (going
to his rooms, which was prior to going to bed), and so uses 'had to
have been' -- rather like a pluperfect, instead of a past, almost as
if it were 'It WAS epistemically necessary that . . . was'. This
cannot he expressed with 'must' because it has no past tense form, But
I would still have used 'must have' here. I confess that this usage
allows for a distinction that is not possible with 'must', though it
does not seem to me to be a very important distinction --at least not
in this example.

Frank Palmer

- --------------------------------------------------------------------

 My thanks goes to all the respondents who immediately answered
about this usage on behalf of my colleague in Osaka. If you have
further comments, please e-mail me directly.

Best Wishes,

Hiroaki Tanaka

Associate Professor,
1-1, Minamijousanjima-cho, Tokushima, 770, Japan
Faculty of Integrated Arts and Sciences,
Tokushima University, Japan
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