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I have been reading something that gives info about how various faiths answer to a question about the animals. The author makes a research and gives what some faiths say about the issue. And the text has the following sentence:

"Among other religions, mormons have a clear position, declaring that yes of course animals can go to heaven. Here’s what a few other faiths have to say about the issue..............

When I was reading, the use of "have to" has caught my attention. We know that it is a modal and is used like "must". And it requires some outside compulsion or obligation. So far so good.

However, in the above sentence, there seems to be no obligation or compulsion at all. The author simply shares what various faiths say and the faiths say various things just like a person shares his ideas. So there is not any forced or compulsive situaiton here, and no obligation either.

So, why is it "... Here is what other faiths have to say about the issue..." instead of "...Here is what other faiths say about the issue?"

Thanks

  • idiom: to have something to say about something. – Lambie Nov 29 '19 at 15:46
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I think it's worth reproducing this comment to a question I asked on ELU some years ago regarding the two different meanings of have to X (possess something for some purpose X OR be obliged to do X)...

A minimal pair:
These are the things I have to play with
takes on two different meanings, depending on whether have is pronounced with an /f/ or a /v/

Peter Shor Aug 13 '11 at 1:13

Referring to the difference in pronunciation, the top-rated answer there points out that it's almost universal in standard English (to enunciate as haff / hat instead of have / had where the "obligation" sense applies).


There shouldn't be any ambiguity in OP's examples, because pragmatically speaking the "obligation" sense is extremely unlikely to be intended (or indeed understood, except perhaps by some non-native speakers dealing with text).

In the spoken form any ambiguity is dispelled by the pronunciation anyway (any sensible native speaker would always use the "hard consonant" versions if there was any risk of being misinterpreted, even if he didn't always do this in other contexts where there was no potential for ambiguity). And in the written version you could either go for "eye dialect" (actually write "haff / hat"), or more likely just use italics / boldface / underlining to indicate the intended "high stress" version.


TL;DR: Unlike many learners, native speakers normally speak / hear English far more than they write / read it. And in this specific case, the net result is that we tend to think of these two different meanings as being conveyed by actual different verbs (that just happen to be written the same way). Thus we barely even notice the potential for ambiguity - which is easily resolved in most cases anyway.

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"Have to" is being used in this case to explain that faiths literally have a statement to give, not that there is an obligation for them to say it.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/have:

to hold or maintain as a possession, privilege, or entitlement

It might be easier to understand with something other than speech:

Alice: The church on main street has gifts to give out for the holiday season.

Bob: Oh that's nice! What do other charities around here have to give out?

The other charities don't have an obligation to give things out, they have gifts that they're giving out.

The faiths in your question don't have an obligation to say something (well, they might, but that's not what the sentence says), they have a statement to give out.

As for why they don't just drop the have to, it'd almost entirely a stylistic choice. Perhaps someone else could wade in on that, or another question might be in order.

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idiom: to have something to say about something. [have an opinion about x]

  • I have nothing to say about the elections.

That just means you want to say something about the elections. You have an opinion about them.

to have something to say about something is unrelated to: to have to say something.

To have to say something means: to feel obligated to say something.

  • I have to say something about the elections. [am compelled to say something about the elections or feel I must say something about them]

The other faiths have something to say = have an opinion they hold on the issue.

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