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I know that "had to have +past participle" can be used for deduction about the past, so when it comes to the negative, can I use both "hadn't got" and "didn't have" + past participle (to mean that something can't have happened)?

I knew that my friend never got lost in the forest, but that time, he'd been there abnormally long, so when my mom said, "He will have got lost," I said that he (hadn't got/didn't have) to have got lost.

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  • Note that in American English, we would more likely say He will have gotten lost. And we probably wouldn't use will have like that... He must have gotten lost. Commented Dec 31, 2022 at 21:11

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“get to have” vs “hadn’t got/gotten to” vs “didn’t have to”

I knew that my friend never got lost in the forest, but that time, he'd been there abnormally long, so when my mom said, “He will have got lost,” I said that he [hadn’t got / didn’t have] to have got lost.

English multi-word verb constructions are especially hard for learners, even if you are yourself a native speaker of another language that’s descended from ancestral Proto-Indo-European just like English is. It seems to me that you do already have a pretty good but not yet perfect grasp of the nuances in these sorts of construction that so often plague learners, and that you’re just trying to fine-tune your understanding of them.

First, let’s take for granted that these five statements all mean essentially the same thing as one another because they’re all about the speaker’s belief in the strong likelihood of some past event having actually occurred:

  1. I think he got lost.
  2. He will have gotten lost.
  3. He must have gotten lost.
  4. He has to have gotten lost.
  5. He has got to have gotten lost.

    (Those last ones sure do have a lot of get verbs in them, but they’re used quite differently. To get lost is to become lost, but to have got to do something is just must do something, making he has got to go the same as he has to go and he must go. Although I don’t think you’re confusing the “likely” or “epistemic” senses of the have got to do something periphrastic modal construction with its “obligatory” or "deontic” senses, the get there is nevertheless totally different from how it’s used in to get lost.)

Given that, I believe that the heart of your question then boils down to how best to negate that statement of belief or likelihood — or at least how to say that his having gotten lost isn’t the only possible explanation that one should consider. So for doing that, your first choice is wrong — because for the negation you cannot say:

  1. ❌ He had not got to have gotten lost.

Because that’s not grammatical for the sense you want. It’s possible to use hadn’t got to but not in the sense you desire here so if you did use it, it would have a different meaning. That’s because had not got to do something means did not get to do something: the opportunity never presented itself or perhaps that it was not acted on when it did show up. So to get to do something isn’t what you want here.

What you need is to use do-support (by way of did marked in the past tense) for the to have to do something construction. You need to say it this way instead:

  1. ✅ He did not have to have gotten lost.

As in:

  1. He doesn’t necessarily have to have gotten lost ....

Perhaps followed by one of these using to have an accident:

  1. ... because maybe he had some kind of accident.
  2. ... because he may have had some kind of accident.
  3. ... because he might have had some kind of accident.

Or by using to get into an accident, such as with one of these:

  1. ... because maybe he got into some kind of accident.
  2. ... because he may have gotten into some kind of accident.
  3. ... because he might have gotten into some kind of accident.

Reduction and devoicing of weak forms

Note that here the have in to have before a past participle is normally pronounced like of is, and the whole thing may be [tuv] or [təv] in connected speech. That’d because although the first have needs the strong form and devoices to [ˈhæftə], but the second one needs the weak form [əv].

See Also

See also the related questions about:

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  • You are so kind and intelligent! I am going to never forget your help! You are a truly wise owl! Commented Jan 1, 2023 at 5:01

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