• He had to arrive before we began yesterday.
  • He had to have arrived before we began yesterday.

2 Answers 2


The answer is very simple. The first sentence indicates obligation in the past, and the second sentence indicates deduction in the past, but the second usage is not very common.

  • Both sentences take about the past, and that has raised ambiguity in my understanding. Thanks, now both are clear: (1) obligation, (2) deduction
    – Saleh Feek
    Commented Jul 16, 2016 at 1:12

Have you heard of the difference between perfect tense and pluperfect tense? : )

You can think of it this way: both of these sentences take the perspective of someone present at that moment in the past. In the first sentence, you're talking about him arriving at that moment; in the second sentence, you're talking about him already having arrived at that moment.

Does that make sense?

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