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According to Murphy's English Grammar in Use you can use "have to" in all forms, and he offers an example in the past simple and another one in the present perfect tense. Hence, I was wondering if had to followed by a perfect infinitive would be feasible.

In Spanish, there are two constructions very similar in meaning:

-Si querías aprobar el examen, deberías haber estudiado más ("If you wanted to pass the exam, you should have studied harder.)

-Si querías aprobar el examen tenías que haber estudiado más.("If you wanted to pass the exam, you had to have studied harder.) However, this one sounds odd to me, and wanted confirmation.

Given the tendency the English language has to simplify (He apologised for being rude is far more common than He apologised for having been rude) I thought that perhaps "If you wanted to pass the exam, you had to study harder." might also be consired as correct.

Thank you

  • Actually, only the first one is fine. The last one should be: If you had wanted to pass the exam, you should have studied harder. – Jason Bassford Apr 30 at 3:11
  • @JasonBassford the 3rd might not be correct, but nobody would bat an eyelid if you said it. – WendyG Apr 30 at 15:05
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The first sentence means what you think.

Re the second sentence... There’s an additional meaning of “had to”. Suppose something extraordinary happens, but you don’t react, and someone says, “You had to have seen that!”. It means that it’s likely that you saw the extraordinary thing, because it was so extraordinary and everyone else saw it, etc. The speaker is expressing his surprise that you didn’t react. The speaker is sure that everyone saw it.

As has been said in the comments to the question, the third sentence should be “If you had wanted to pass the exam, you should have studied harder.” But as with much of spoken casual English, mistakes are made but the meaning can still be conveyed. You could even say “If wanted to pass, study harder!” But don’t :)

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