In this passage there is a slight pause after 'must' and a stress on 'not':

'I saw Isabella she had a blank expression on her face. I'm not sure what happened with the knife she was carrying it looked like she was still holding on to it, and I looked down and I saw my wife on the floor blood everywhere all over the bathroom. I was talking to the dispatcher and the dispatcher told me, 'Make sure you get her breathing again. Get her airways open.' I don't know CPR so... But at that time I looked at my wife's eyes and I knew that she must not have made it. I just couldn't, couldn't believe that, that it had happened like that. Isabella was in a rage like I've never seen before.'

(from an interrogation of Ryan Hoy, Youtube video 'When An Insane Teen Killer Makes Detectives Snap')

Would there have been any difference in meaning if he had said, '...she mustn't have made it' or 'she must have not made it' instead?

1 Answer 1


He is speaking 'off the cuff' and using rather unconventional syntax while describing a painful incident - obviously he means 'not have made it' as a euphemism for 'be dead'. Personally I would find She must have not made it a bit more natural here.

Must is of course being used in the sense 'probably was' rather than that of obligation to do something, but the order of words doesn't really affect the meaning.

  • Would 'She must have not made it' be pronounced as 'She must've not made it'? And wouldn't 'she mustn't have made it' in our context mean 'she was supposed to die but she didn't' or 'she had to die but she didn't'?
    – tes389
    Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 12:07
  • 1
    Yes, except in very careful speech must have is pronounced must've and must not, mustn't. As I said, must here does NOT have the 'obligation' meaning. Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 12:26
  • 1
    There are indeed, and in those cases must does have the 'obligation' meaning. Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 17:41
  • 1
    Must haven't done is not valid English. A formal statement of rules like that would not include contractions, so mustn't have done is unlikely, and the first version isn't very natural. (I suggested that "She must have not made it" would be natural because the phrase not make it is an idiom for fail or die.) Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 7:49
  • 1
    I said in my answer that it was my personal opinion that that version was more natural, not a rule. No native speaker would say must haven't. Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 14:20

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .