Recently I have heard following sentence:

"What other basic commands do you think she has to be told?

I do understand what does this sentence mean, but I do not fully understand what construction is it grammar-wise?

My guessing that it is "-have to + passive voice-" combination here, where "-have to-" is that "kind-of-modal-verb-but-overly-not", am I right here?

Also, if for some reason I would like to cut off modality from sentence, can I rephrase this sentence in following way (just for note, I want to point that someone already told her some instructions and now I am wondering what they exactly were):

"What other basic commands do you think she was told?

  • 1
    What other things has she been told? (non-modal version) What other things do you think she has been told? You are correct about the passive, and in your understanding of "has" + marked infinitive as a periphrasis for "must" + bare infinitive.
    – TimR
    May 12, 2017 at 12:06
  • 1
    It is a passive present perfect infinitival construction, more specifically a 'catenative' construction (catenative here means chain of verbs). "Have and "be" are both catenative verbs so "to be told" is complement of "has" and "told" is complement of "be". "Have" is not modal, though the meaning is one of obligation.
    – BillJ
    May 12, 2017 at 18:06
  • @BillJ wow, thank you very much for pointing that term (catenative) out, never heard that term before. Actually, it makes things a little bit confusing. Just to make things clear, do I understand right that catenatives can "stack" to each other; so in may case it looks like: Verb + Catenative Verb [ Verb + Catenative Verb ], so two catenatives come together? Is I need to drink is catenative verb example too? Thank you!
    – Mark
    May 12, 2017 at 18:21
  • Catenative complements are always non-finite clauses, sometimes immediately adjacent as in I promised [to read the report], and sometimes with an intervening noun as in I persuaded Ed [to read the report]. In those examples, "promise" and "persuade" are catenative verb and the catenative complements are bracketed. In your example, "need" is a catenative verb and "to drink" is a catenative complement: I need [to drink]. See here:link
    – BillJ
    May 13, 2017 at 7:42

1 Answer 1


To have to X means to be required or forced to do X. It's often equivalent to must X.

I have to go now = I am required to go now, I must go now.

One meaning of to have to be X is to be required or forced to have X completed or done.

I have to be finished by 2:00pm.

I have to be gone before John gets here.

Another meaning of to have to be X is to be required or forced that someone else does X to you. If there is no by phrase saying who, the default is by someone or by anyone.

She will have to be told to leave, otherwise she isn't leaving.

I have to be washed by the nurse since my arms are immobile.

My guessing that it is "-have to + passive voice-" combination here, where "-have to-" is that "kind-of-modal-verb-but-overly-not", am I right here?

Have isn't a modal. It can be a helping or auxillary verb as traditional grammar describes. Like do or be. I'm sure CEGL calls it something different. It's definitely not a modal because it's an option to use with modals. E.g. I could have gone and I could go are valid.

Your modals are: can, could, shall, should, will, would, may, might, must, ought and a few other not-so-common ones like dare.

But have in addition to being a helping/auxillary verb is also a standalone verb, and you have have X and a phrasal variation have to X.

E.g. this works:

I would have had to have gone to the park yesterday but my friend had gone instead.

can I rephrase this sentence in following way

Yep, because you are asking about the what the commands are, not really anything else about the commands such as whether or not she had to do them.

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