I am little bit confused about English grammar structure about "Have had to" and its uses and needed some clarification on the same.

For example:

I have had to take a leave.

Is it grammatically correct? If yes then what does it mean?

If not then what grammar structure should I use to show my compulsion for taking a leave against my will? I.e. I don't want to take a leave but my circumstances are making me to take a leave.

  • 3
    It means you took a leave (of absence?) in the past, or are currently on the leave. The leave was not voluntary, you HAD to take it. I personally wouldn't say "a leave", but just "leave" or "a leave of absence" but that could just be my dialect showing.
    – Ron Jensen
    Nov 7, 2015 at 2:40
  • I might say something like, "I was asked to take a leave of absence," if I wanted to indicate that it was not voluntary. Nov 7, 2015 at 3:51
  • 1
    You were forced to take a leave in the past and you are still currently on leave. // "I was asked..." implies that you had a choice. // "I had to take a leave." means that you were forced to take a leave in the past but it is ambiguous if you are still on leave or not. // "I had been forced to take a leave. " means that you were forced to take a leave in the past but you are no longer on leave.
    – MaxW
    Nov 7, 2015 at 7:00

2 Answers 2


I "have to" take a leave (or, probably more common leave of absence) is present tense and can indicate "compulsion against the speaker's will."

I "had to" take a leave is past tense and can indicate the same thing.

I "have had to" take a leave is present perfect tense. It follows the normal pattern of forming the present perfect by using have + particle of the verb. In this case the participle of have to is had to. So you get have + had to.

In your sentence, the present perfect means that the leave you were forced to take started in the past and is still in effect at the moment of speaking the sentence.


There are two different things here.

  1. 'Having to take leave': "I had to take leave" means that I took leave (only) because I was under some obligation to do so. However: note that it does not necessarily mean that someone made me. Maybe I was just so stressed that I realised I needed to get out for a bit.

  2. 'Have had to' construction: This is a generic continuous-past-tense construction, but looks a bit more confusing just because of the fact that the main verb is 'have to', giving 2 separate and unrelated uses of 'have':

"I have had to take leave" almost certainly means that I am at the moment still on leave, although it can also be used for "I have had to take leave 4 times already this year". In both cases the 'have had to' construction is rooted in the present: it is saying "I am (now) in a position where that obligation is still having an effect on me".

i.e. the same thing without the 'have:have' confusion: "I came to London to learn English (but ended up staying for the wonderful weather)" vs "I have come to London to learn English"

  • 1
    There is nothing "continuous" about the verb(s) in question.
    – user20792
    Nov 7, 2015 at 17:22
  • @user1. Care to elaborate? Quite a bold assertion especially given your own answer ('started in the past and is still in effect in the present') which is pretty much the definition of 'continuous' in this usage. Nov 8, 2015 at 3:49

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