"He had to have arrived by 3 o'clock yesterday."

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He had to have arrived by 3 o'clock yesterday.

Is it grammatically correct? What does it mean?

Graduate

Posted 2013-06-23T06:50:16.917

Reputation: 7 310

1What makes you think it is or isn't correct? What do you think it means? Please edit to provide further information on what context you're trying to use this sentence in; otherwise this is just proofreading. – WendiKidd – 2013-06-23T16:14:55.277

1What Wendi said. More context. That said, on the surface, it looks grammatically correct, and I'd take it to mean that he must have arrived no later than three – that it wouldn't have been plausible for him to have arrived any later. For example: "He boarded yesterday's 3 o'clock train, so he had to have arrived [at the station] by 3 o'clock yesterday." – J.R. – 2013-06-23T18:33:45.850

That has to have been the right restaurant. – Graduate – 2013-06-24T00:22:26.597

Answers

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The sentence is fine. To know what it means requires more context, because HAVE to, like must, may have two senses, which linguists call deontic and epistemic.

  1. The deontic sense denotes a strong obligation or requirement—stronger, for instance, than should or ought to:

    The official rules required that he had to have arrived by 3 o'clock yesterday in order to run in the race.

  2. The epistemic sense denotes an inference of logical necessity.

    He ran in the race, so he had to have arrived by 3 o'clock yesterday.

StoneyB on hiatus

Posted 2013-06-23T06:50:16.917

Reputation: 176 469

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The sentence that you posted above is gramatically correct, but wouldn't usually be used on its own like that. Usually, the construction "had to have verbed" indicates an implication of the fulfillment some condition. For example, "He had to have arrived by 3 o'clock yesterday, because he was done with the 30-minute job by 3:30." Another example: "This has to have been the right restaurant because John found what he was looking for here."

Daniel

Posted 2013-06-23T06:50:16.917

Reputation: 1 428