I'm curious to know whether the usage of "have to" is normal in the progressive, especially in clauses.

  • Having to finish this project today I had to stay up late at work.
  • I hate travelling with a lot of luggage. Having to carry all that stuff along doesn't please me.
  • Why do you think either of these examples might have a problem? The first might be more commonly expressed as "Because I have to finish...", but the second one is perfectly normal. – The Photon Dec 1 '17 at 4:52
  • @ThePhoton Some sources indicate that we cannot use "have to" in the progressive. – SovereignSun Dec 1 '17 at 4:53
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    Because it's stative, it's not used as a predicative progressive. Both "I'm knowing better" and "I'm having to do that" sound unnatural. The same semantics are carried by the more natural "I know better" and "I have to do that". Since the progressive forms in your examples don't form predicates, they aren't subject to that restriction. – Gary Botnovcan Dec 1 '17 at 18:27

Your first example is not incorrect but it would more usually be expressed as

Because I had to finish the project today, I had to stay late at work.

But that's not because there's anything wrong with using the progressive form of "have to". It's because no matter what the verb is, we usually only use this form to indicate a precondition for a further consequence (i.e., to explain why you had to stay late at work) in very formal writing.

Your second example isn't using the present progressive, but the gerund form of "have to".

In comments you wrote,

Some sources indicate that we cannot use "have to" in the progressive.

It's true we wouldn't normally say something like "I'm having to eat lunch with my mother in law every Tuesday". Instead we'd just say "I have to..."

  • Now I think of it more, the "Having to finish..." construction might not be a progressive tense either...hopefully a better grammarian than me will come along and comment. – The Photon Dec 1 '17 at 5:06
  • Gerund form in the second sentence? I disagree, it doesn't look like a gerund to me. – SovereignSun Dec 1 '17 at 6:36
  • @SovereignSun No, The Photon is correct. Having introduces a subordinate clause which acts as the subject (X doesn't please me), a nominal, so we characterize the -ing form as a gerund. – StoneyB on hiatus Dec 1 '17 at 11:25

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