I've seen 'have to offer', in job interviews or some advertisements. Am I right to think that those 'have to' actually means want to? (mm...how do I make 'have to' plural..?)

And here I have a writing by a native. Am I right to think that he's being a little sarcastic when he says 'have to offer' here? I believe 'offer' is something in good nature, proposals or gifts. I think it sounds like he sees other alliances as though they have been surrendered to them, but am I wrong?

We took on the largest Meta and still didn't skip a beat. We stand united in our convictions and could care less what other alliances have to offer.

  • Not sure of the context, but it seems like he's referring to the amenities and advantages other alliances provide to their members. In some instances of "have to offer", the words "have to" will convey necessity, as in "That's all we're giving them? We have to offer them more." Other times, such as the times I believe you are referring to, "to offer" is basically an adjective phrase that describes things one might have (see current answers). In BrE, you might hear "have on offer" which has only this latter meaning. I'm not sure of the grammar involved or I would write an answer. Jun 3, 2014 at 20:07
  • 2
    @karlalou I read it as [[what X have] to offer], not [what X [have to] offer]. Jun 3, 2014 at 20:24

3 Answers 3


In this context, it doesn't have anything to do with wanting to offer. Basically, when we say something that someone has to offer, we're talking about something possessed by an individual or entity that they are offering, such as a job, opportunities, cake, etc..

It could well be the case that they also want to offer said thing, but it's not always going to be that way.


The way I see it, there's an ambiguity in the phrase that has to be resolved by context. Consider the following two sentences:

I (have to) offer my driver's license to the police officer.

I am a bad painter, so there is little I have (to offer) for your home improvement project.

In the first case, the emphasis is on the lack of choice. I [have to|must] do something.

In the second case, the emphasis is on possession. I don't possess the skills to assist you in your painting project.

  • IMO, the first context is rare in English, as the word "offer" usually has an implication that the act is voluntary on he part of the one doing the offering. I wouldn't "offer" my license to an officer that demanded it, I'd "give" or "turn over", I think...
    – KutuluMike
    Jun 4, 2014 at 11:37

Another way to say "what do they have to offer" could be "what do they have, that they can offer to me".

For instance, if I was helping a friend find a job, I might tell her to look at what the potential jobs have to offer- meaning, look at the individual jobs, and examine the pay and benefits (as well as other "perks") that she might get by accepting each job.

It can be used sarcastically, but in the highlighted passage the speaker is saying "The other alliances may offer us anything, but we will not take it."

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