I'm always confused about using 'to have'. I know it is a perfect infinitive but the meaning of it must have a different usage than 'to+verb'!

If you go there you need to have registered a room.

Why it is not just "to" before register?

It would've been possible to have met him if you'd been there.

To appreciate the success, you need to have had the failure.

Why not just "to have" instead of "to have had"?

  • The second example is weird, because the double use of past tense implies, to me, although I can't point you at a rule, the past before the past. I read it as to have had met instead of just to have met. And the sentece is complicated by use of the self-referential it, which refers to the sentence itself.
    – Hector von
    Mar 22, 2017 at 13:51

1 Answer 1


Let's say you go to a very popular restaurant where it is difficult to get a seat, and you must make a reservation weeks in advance.

To eat there, you have to make a reservation.

Now, let's say a tourist is visiting the city, and does not know that the restaurant is always full. He enters, expecting to be seated. The greeter can say:

Sorry, you have to make a reservation beforehand.


Sorry, you have to have made a reservation.

The first version, "have to make", describes the general state of affairs. People who wish to eat there must reserve a place in advance. This is probably what the greeter would say, or even "You need a reservation". Present tense, to describe what is customary.

The second version describes the very specific situation in respect to time. The person is standing now in the restaurant. The person should have made a reservation already, in the past: When you come here, expecting to be seated, you must have made a reservation.

The tense have made contains the idea "beforehand", that is, "before now". The reservation should exist already.

  • The first version is some form of paste tense because of the temporal aspect of beforehand.
    – Hector von
    Mar 22, 2017 at 13:38
  • No, @Hector von, the first version is in present tense, not past tense. have to make = "are obliged to make". You have to make a reservation is in the present tense. beforehand simply means "earlier than {the thing in question}". You can even use it with the future: When you visit London next year, be sure to arrange lodgings beforehand.
    – TimR
    Mar 22, 2017 at 14:28
  • And "earlier than" pretty much means past tense in relation to the predicate of "beforehand", which admittedly comes down to the present tense if the predicate is in the future tense: "You have to make a reservation before you will come here". But that is often rendered, "next time, before you come here" where the "next time is enough to signal future. Correctly though "next time" requires future tense, before you will come here". That's analytic versus syntactic language.
    – Hector von
    Mar 22, 2017 at 14:28
  • beforehand is relative and refers to a sequence of events, and those events can be situated in the past, present, future, or even in the hypothetical realm. As I said, and showed with the London lodgings example, you can use it with the future. We can leave out "next year" or leave it in.
    – TimR
    Mar 22, 2017 at 14:31
  • sorry, edited because I hit enter too soon
    – Hector von
    Mar 22, 2017 at 14:32

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