What is the short answer for "Nobody has to know"?



This is from "The Lion King":

Nala: And your mother, what will she think?

Simba: She doesn't have to know. Nobody has to know.

Nala: Of course they do!

Why doesn't she reply: "Of course they have!" ?


Posted 2014-02-28T09:36:27.433

Reputation: 297



To omit the rest of the sentence, you need an auxiliary verb. And sometimes, have is an auxiliary verb:

Have you taken out the trash?
Yes, I have [taken out the trash].

Here, have is an auxiliary verb, so the rest of the sentence can be omitted as long as it can be understood from context.

If you don't have an auxiliary verb, you can insert the meaningless auxiliary do:

You like eggs, right?
Yes, I do [like eggs].

Note that you can't simply say "Yes, I like", because like isn't an auxiliary verb. You need an auxiliary to omit the rest of the sentence.

And in your example, have is not an auxiliary. In this sense, it's a lexical verb:

She doesn't have to know. Nobody has to know.
Of course they have to know!

Since it's not an auxiliary verb, the rest of the sentence can't be omitted. But if we insert the meaningless auxiliary do:

Of course they do [have to know]!

Then we can omit it.


Posted 2014-02-28T09:36:27.433

Reputation: 30 097

Actually, I think have is not a lexical verb but a fossil spelling of the first syllable of the recently evolved 'enhanced' modal *hafta*. Note that with the "have to" and "got to" phrasals a)the "verb" and "to" cannot be separated: modifiers cannot be placed before "to" b) the phrase can stand by itself for the full VP: "Nobody hasta know? Of course they hafta!" But the evolution is so recent that the default pro-verb do is also in play. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2014-02-28T14:02:51.320

1Further examples: "Nobody wants to know", "Of course they want!" is incorrect. "Nobody has ever known", "Of course they have!" is correct. "Nobody wants anything", "Of course they want!" could be correct, but only if the second speaker isn't eliding words as snailplane is talking about, rather they've switched to using "want" as an intransitive verb, which changes the meaning a little. – Steve Jessop – 2014-02-28T14:38:19.320

2Oh, and "Nobody must know", "Of course they must!" is correct, again because "must" is an auxiliary verb. And I think "Nobody has to know", "Of course they have to!" is correct, although I wonder whether some "don't split infinitives" fanatics would object to treating "has to" in that way. I think they shouldn't because as StoneyB says "have to" is a modal. – Steve Jessop – 2014-02-28T15:00:00.470


@StoneyB Hafta fails the main tests for a modal auxiliary: it doesn't negate, it doesn't invert, and it doesn't appear in tag questions. See The Morpholexical Nature of English to-Contraction for a more detailed rejection of the idea that hafta is either a lexeme or a modal, and specifically page 100 for discussion of the evidence from VP ellipsis.

– snailplane – 2014-02-28T19:25:04.580

@snailplane I will read this when I have the leisure to do so properly; but you're quite right; I should have called it a 'quasi-' or 'semi-'modal. But it belongs to a group (it's a little early to call it a 'class') that appears to be in the process of replacing the traditional modals at the same fairly rapid pace with which they were introduced. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2014-02-28T19:50:38.370

@snailplane It appears that Pullum takes hafta to be a lexeme: "4. THE DERIVATIONAL RULE OF TO- SUFFIXATION. What is right about the lexicalization analysis, I claim, is that in modern colloquial American English, WANNA and WANT are distinct lexemes. What is wrong about it is the claim that they are synchronically unrelated. I propose that they are related via derivational morphology." WANNA/WANT is his paradigmatic case and stands here, I think, for all his "therapy verbs", including HAFTA/HAVE. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2014-03-01T02:52:47.610

@StoneyB Oh, quite right. Scratch off the "a lexeme" bit from my comment! – snailplane – 2014-03-01T02:55:16.747