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Are the bold parts grammatically correct? It sounds to me like the tenses are a bit redundant.

In the second round, Djokovic faced Bobby Reynolds, a journeyman American making his Centre Court début at the age of thirty. Reynolds told me later, “I would have had to have played an unbelievable match, and he would have had to have played C-level, for me to have even had a chance.”

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    @kih1930, I'm not great at explaining the "why"s behind these types of questions, but the idea is that this is a counterfactual and it's in the past. So would have means there must have been a world where things were different and this happened and had to have played means that this counterfactual scenario is in the past, and the playing must have been [x]. I have no idea if that makes any sense, but I tried! I'm sure someone else will come along with a better answer. – WendiKidd Sep 12 '13 at 2:24
  • Dear god, this sentence is simultaneously gruesome and fascinating, like a unicorn roadkill. – SF. Sep 12 '13 at 8:55
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Yes, they're grammatically correct.

No, they aren't redundant. The "extra" haves are not "extra" at all; they're used to put the verbs into the present perfect. I'll try to explain each verb one at a time:


First, let's break down the first clause:

I would have1 had2 to have3 played4 an unbelievable match

have1 and have3 are both auxiliary verbs. In each case, they combine with the past participle of the following main verb (had2 and played4, respectively) to form a present perfect construction.

had2, on the other hand, is a main verb, just like played4. Followed by to, it expresses "must; need to; to be required to". This expresses a logical requirement of the final clause (for me to have even had a chance).

The meaning is essentially the same as the present version:

I would have2 to play4 an unbelievable match

The only difference is that the main verbs (2 and 4) have been replaced with present perfect versions (1+2, and 3+4), so it's no longer in the present.


We can say the same thing about the final clause:

for me to have5 even had6 a chance.

Again, have5 is an auxiliary verb that combines with the past participle of the following main verb, had6, forming the present perfect construction have5 had6. The main verb, had6, in this case expresses possession.

Again, we can compare this to the present version:

for me to even have6 a chance.

This has the same meaning, except that it's in the present tense.


Let's take a look at what the full quote would look like in the present tense:

I would have2 to play4 an unbelievable match, and he would have to play C-level, for me to even have6 a chance.

As you can see, all three haves are main verbs expressing meaning. We obtain all the other haves by transforming each verb into a present perfect construction (have had or have played).

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