What is this "would have had to"?

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This stranger talked to me. Usually, I would have had to think something bad would happen. But I followed him.

(One Day in NY) BY Pat Mathew

What is this "would have had to"?

user2492

Posted 2014-08-09T11:34:51.843

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Answers

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"Have to" can express different levels and types of urgency. In most cases it means must, however it can also have the force of a more abstract "have no alternative but to..." "can't help but..." as in your example.

In the present one could say:

If my husband calls on the emergency line, I have to assume something is wrong.

In the past:

Last week, when my husband called me on the emergency line, I had to assume something was wrong.

Perfect:

In the past, when my husband has called me on the emergency line, I've had to assume that something was wrong.

General, referring to the past:

Back then, under normal circumstances, if my husband ever called me on the emergency line we kept, I would have had to assume that something was wrong.

This same usage applies to your example with "think." The speaker is referring to the way he used to think, how he invariably reacted to a stranger addressing him. In this case "would have had to think" expresses that this would have been his usual reaction (which he makes clear with "usually").

CocoPop

Posted 2014-08-09T11:34:51.843

Reputation: 6 719

No, this "had to" means that out of habit, he would invariably thought, or would "have no choice" but to think... With homework, it's an actual urgency in the true meaning of the word. However, this usage is more figurative, meaning that the situation would not have gone any other way, true to his nature, he would have thought something bad would happen. – CocoPop – 2014-08-09T13:57:18.153

Yes, it's closer to "he has to be the culprit" meaning "I'm sure he's the culprit" – CocoPop – 2014-08-09T14:04:25.413

No, there's no need to combine "sure" and "assume": "I'm sure something is wrong" or "I assume something is wrong" can all be possible nuances of "have to" – CocoPop – 2014-08-09T14:09:19.790

Is it like, "When I turn on my computer, I have to check out the latest news?" – None – 2014-08-09T16:15:02.150

"If I had been in the normal state of mind, I would have had to avoid talking to strangers." this has the "cannot help but" ring to it, except in the subjunctive mood? – None – 2014-08-09T16:17:14.973

This "have to" is used with verbs of realization, understanding, concluding, etc. and in situations where the circumstances left you with no other option but to see things a certain way. For example: "When I saw the ambulances speeding down our street, I had to assume they were going for my father, who was terminally ill at the time." -or- "My boss is very cheap, so when he gave me a $250 bonus for no reason at all, I had to question his motives." -or- "My son was smart, but he was no genius. If he had started talking about other dimensions, I would have had to wonder if he was on drugs." – CocoPop – 2014-08-10T12:14:32.467

I see. So it cannot mean "might have been" or "must have been" as a guess. like "she might have been sad last night, coz she was reticent."? – None – 2014-08-10T13:35:22.820

Exactly. It's usage implies: I had no choice but to conclude, think, wonder, guess, etc. because of the circumstances. – CocoPop – 2014-08-10T13:49:47.920

I see! So my example up there is correct? "If I had been in the normal state of mind, I would have had to avoid talking to strangers." this has the "cannot help but" ring to it, except in the subjunctive mood? – None – 2014-08-10T13:51:31.300

Correct. Because with "think" it means that given you frame of mind, you would have had no choice but to conclude, guess, infer, etc. that something was up. – CocoPop – 2014-08-10T13:53:53.217

-1

Usually, I would have had to think something bad would happen.

Is a conditional forced action ("have had") in the past tense. In this case a thought of a bad thing occuring under normal circumstances.

In this case:

But I followed him

you can assume that he does not believe something bad will happen, however, something is not not quite "normal" since "Usually" he would be forced to have that thought, but not this time.

Sammaye

Posted 2014-08-09T11:34:51.843

Reputation: 255