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What are the differences in meaning between the following sentences?

All of the sentences below convey the meaning of compulsion of exercise to be carried out in three months.

a) This exercise has to be carried out in three months.

b) This exercise should be carried out in three months.

c) This exercise was to be carried out in three months.

d) This exercise had to be carried out in three months.

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This exercise has to be carried out in three months.

This MUST be completed. There is a deadline with NO EXCEPTIONS!

This exercise should be carried out in three months.

There is REASON TO BELIEVE this will be completed.

This exercise was to be carried out in three months.

This is NO LONGER NECCESSARY to complete.

This exercise had to be carried out in three months.

This was COMPELLED to complete. Did not meet deadline if you put emphasis on HAD.

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    In (d), the words themselves do not imply failure to complete. Indeed, they can be used if the exercise was completed in three months. – tunny Nov 18 '14 at 9:06
  • Option (b) could also be read as, "It would be preferable for the exercise to be carried out in three months, but not necessarily so." In speech, this would be determined by inflection or stress on specific words. In writing, by context. – Nathan K Apr 1 '16 at 18:25

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