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As described in the title, I want to know the difference between those expressions.

E.g.:

Let's hear what he had to say about ...

vs.

Let's hear what he said about...

Thank you.

  • the term "let's" don´t mean something that's about to happen? In this example you gave, I think it would be more suitable to write: "Let's hear what he have to say about.." – Fernando Vieira Dec 9 '15 at 13:50
  • @FernandoVieira - "Let's hear what he have to say" is not grammatically correct. It would be what he has to say or what he had to say. (Or what he said, as the original poster said.) – stangdon Dec 9 '15 at 13:56
  • Yes, you're absolutely right @stangdon. My bad. – Fernando Vieira Dec 9 '15 at 14:00
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"Had to " in the first sentence has nothing to do with modality in this context. "Had" is used as "possessed ".

Have you got anything to say?

The sentence means "Let's hear what he prepared to say", or "let's hear his opinion". The second sentence refers to what he said.

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  • The difference between "had to say" and "said" is quite subtle in my opinion, but overall I agree with this analysis. – Era Dec 9 '15 at 18:51
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There is an emotive difference between the two. Had to say implies an urgency, a need to express or explain something, or an obligation to say something:

I had to say something to make the dog attack stop.
He did not understand, so I had to say that it's not possible.
He had to say he was a refugee before entering the country.

Said is a more neutral, and possibly more ambiguous in terms of urgency:

He said he was tired, and went to bed.
She said it was raining yesterday.

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  • 1
    I have to disagree with you on the usage of had to say; it does not imply any urgency in this native speaker's opinion. Consider this example: "We asked Senator Bloggs about the healthcare bill, and this is what he had to say." It only means "possessed" in this context. I agree that this can be confusing and ambiguous, because "have to" can mean necessity or urgency, as in "I have to leave", but not in this context. – stangdon Dec 9 '15 at 14:00
  • @stangdon, fair point, "These are my thoughts on" = "This is what I have to say about" – Peter Dec 9 '15 at 16:56
  • @stangdon, I agree with you. I was wondering if "have" here means "possess ".By the way, it's just the same in other languages. Like in" Have you got anything to say?" anything =what, meaning someone 's opinion. – V.V. Dec 9 '15 at 18:21

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