third conditional with obligation

Discussion in 'English Only' started by srtatimida, Dec 13, 2012.

  1. srtatimida

    srtatimida New Member

    Berlin, Germany
    American English, Filipino
    Hi all,

    As I hadn't found anything touching on this specific topic, I'm starting a new thread. Apologies in advance if this has been brought up elsewhere in the forum.

    I'm assigning my EFL students a task in which they rewrite a short paragraph using this conditional. Example:

    The security guard called the police. X had to stand trial.
    If the security guard hadn't called the police, X wouldn't have had to stand trial.

    The next sentence in the paragraph would then be:

    If X hadn't stood trial (Y wouldn't have happened).

    However, I anticipate a student asking me why this sentence wouldn't be written as:

    If X hadn't had to stand trial...

    and un/fortunately, I have to provide a reason other than "that's just the way it is!"
    My first instinct was to differentiate between [hadn't had + noun] and [+ infinitive], but I've found examples of the latter, e.g.

    She would've left home sooner if she hadn't had to take care of her parents.

    Both "X" hadn't stood and hadn't had to stand trial point to the fact that s/he in did go through the process. For the life of me, though, I still don't know how to explain clearly, concisely why the former was my automatic response, besides that "to have to do sthg" is a way of expressing obligation (and that the answer is in the back of the textbook)!

    That said, all suggestions would be helpful and duly appreciated!
  2. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    You're confusing sequence of tenses and meaning.

    The two sentences have different meanings:
    If X hadn't stood trial means what it says - If he had not attended court.
    If X hadn't had to stand trial means - If he had not been obliged to attend court.

    Now, this is a criminal matter, so he didn't have much choice, but the grammatical fact remains that the meanings are different. And both are correct.
  3. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    Hi there!

    I think you're over-analyzing things. The only reason there's an extra "have" in the original phrase is to express obligation, as you said. Both of these sentences are fine:
    Similarly, both these sentences are fine:
    There's very little difference in meaning between "to stand trial" and "to have to stand trial" (this is because nobody ever stands trial voluntarily). So the second sentence, I think, is just shortened for convenience.
  4. srtatimida

    srtatimida New Member

    Berlin, Germany
    American English, Filipino
    I knew I could count on you guys.

    Thanks, Keith and Lucas!

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