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I wonder what does "to have" mean? Sometimes it means "possess" and it is the most understandable mean to me. I don't understand the rest of meanings, I meant in tenses. What word would be interchangeable instead "to have"?

  • To have studied would have been wiser for her.
  • He pretended to have seen the film.
  • I am glad to have worked with you.

3 Answers 3

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There is no synonym or interchangeable verb for "to have" when it is used in an auxiliary or helping verb function. As an auxiliary verb, "to have" expresses the tense of the main verb.

"To have [done something]" expresses the completion of the main verb action.

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The sentences below contain a perfect infinitive:

  • To have studied would have been wiser for her.
  • He pretended to have seen the film*.
  • I am glad to have worked with you.

The perfect infinitive is formed like this: to have + the past participle.

PRESENT tense:

  • To study would be wiser for her.
  • He is pretending to see the film.
  • I am glad to work with you.

Note: careful with pretend here. To make it present tense, the continuous must be used to avoid sounding like a general statement:

He pretends to like your brother but he really doesn't.

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  • I want to ask question. What is the differences between these sentences? I said to have waited for you. -> I said that I have waited for you. She said to have worked here. -> She said that she has worked here. What is the differences?
    – user123960
    Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 18:37
  • I said to have waited for you. [BUZZER] She said to have worked here. [BUZZER]
    – Lambie
    Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 16:22
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    Be careful: To say something is one thing. And this is another: She was said to have worked here.
    – Lambie
    Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 16:23
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The word have as an auxillary verb controls a verb's "aspect" - and making an infinitive perfect is a way to prevent the infinitive from being associated with any presently occurring actions.

It's useful to think of it as a "hack" to make an infinitive roughly equivalent to a past-tense finite verb--finite verbs have a subject and tense.

To have studied would have been wiser for her.

Why are we even saying to have studied in the first place, instead of something like "If she had studied, it would have been wiser for her"?

  • Infinitives "disconnect" an action from talking about a specific person or situation.

  • What the infinitive does in this sentence is:

    • the speaker/writer believes that studying in general makes people wise.

    • the speaker/writer is using this as an example for others.

  • What the perfect infinitive does in this sentence is say that it is too late and she can't go back and study now. Using a finite verb with a past tense would accomplish this as well, but it wouldn't necessarily express the above.

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  • > Infinitives "disconnect" an action from talking about a specific person or situation. I think I didn't understand this.
    – user123960
    Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 16:57
  • This explanation is convoluted and misses the basic point. to study is a present infinitive, to have studied is a perfect infinitive, associated with the past. Why people use To have studied rather than If she had studied could be a matter of generalities: To study is a good thing. To have studied can help any career.
    – Lambie
    Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 17:05

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