"Here's what Donald Trump had to say at his press conference."

“Here’s what Donald Trump had to say at his press conference.”
I have a question. What does the expression “had to” mean in the context.
I feel that “had to say” does not necessarily mean that he “was required to say” something. Is it a set phrase?

Things I have to say

  1. Things I must say
  2. Things (I have) that I can/will say

Things he intended to say?

Yeah, I think so. It always depends on the wider context. Here (probably?) it means the things he had lined up to say, that he intended to say.

(But it could be understood the other way though - if viewed in isolation. In that case, it would mean “the things he needed to say”.)

“Have to”, as a “collocation” can occur in two very different scenarios :
A) As the co-occurrence of verb “have” plus an infinitive denoting finality. Just as you can use a final infinitive with other verbs, as in “I did that to please you”
B) As the set expression “have to”, meaning “must”
When there’s an object, you can tell which case is meant by its position. Compare:

  1. I have a present to give you.
    2.I have to give you a present.
    In the first case I have a present. Its a present I got/purchased, so as I could give it to you. Notice that it’s implied that the present exists and its available for me to give it to you
    The second example means "I must give you a present, I feel obliged to do so. Probably, such a present doesn’t yet exist

Your example corresponds to cases A or 1. That is, its not that Mr. Trump had to say something. Its that he had something to say

Edit, Have to in cases such as B or 2, can probably be better understood as I am required, I am forced " (external obligation) than" I must “,” I feel obliged " (internal obligation )

It’s had something to say, not had to say something.

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“…Have to in cases such as B or 2, can probably be better understood as I am required, I am forced " (external obligation) than” I must “,” I feel obliged " (internal obligation )…"

Mmm…I’m not sure that I agree. If I think to myself “I just have to say something about this” (for example) that wouldn’t necessarily equate to being required or forced to say something.

Yes, I know it’s a tricky issue. Thank you for your input as a native speaker

The given example was: “Here’s what Donald Trump had to say at his press conference.”

Presented like this (without any context) I could understand it either way - as either A or B in your scheme. In spoken language we would tend to place an emphasis on the word “had” if we mean B

Thus: “Here’s what Trump HAD”…(spoken with emphasis)…“to say” would definitely mean “Here’s what Trump needed to say, was required to say, etc”

Yes, the stressed word is a very important piece of information in a language such as English.
In scheme “A” “have” is a main verb so it gets stressed. In scheme “B” it’s equivalent to a modal verb and modal verbs tend to be stressed only when they are negated.

I think that’s another example of how annoying non-phonetic spellings can be at times. Standard written English provides absolutely no clue about what word is stressed in the sentence, even if it can have such a dramatic impact on perceived meaning.

I would be willing to place a small wager of ONE MILLION DOLLARS that this sentence means “here’s what Donald Trump said at his press conference”, and not “here’s what Donald Trump was obligated to say…”

It’s an extremely common way to introduce someone’s comments on a particular topic or contents of their speech. In this case, it’s the title of a BBC news video showing what Trump said (had to say).

The chances that it was meant or would be read by a native speaker as Trump being “obligated” to say something are tremendously low. I would win this bet bigly, believe me!



The others have been side-tracked by their own dialogue and gone on to other meanings totally irrelevant to Trump’s press conference.

It’s obvious that he had something to say.

“Here’s what Donald Trump had to say” = “This is what he has to say about” = “These are his thoughts on”

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Generally speaking, you’d be right. But Trump has…ehm…had some problems in recent days, hasn’t he? It’s not by any means inconceivable that a journalist may have started a paragraph by listing points that Trump needed to make at his press conference, things that he needed to rebut, etc.

“…I would win this bet bigly, believe me!..”

That’s just plain braggadocious!

You don’t give up easily, do you?!!! :slight_smile: :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

It’s the red hat - it has a phenomenal effect, an exceptional effect! :slight_smile:

“The others have been side-tracked”???
which others, only Jay has ever defended the plausibility of the “obligation” interpretation. I think you’ve missed the conversation.

I’m sure it’s the effect of the hat

All joking aside, I’m happy to reiterate everything I’ve written here. The sentence given to us was, quote: “Here’s what Donald Trump had to say at his press conference.”

Seeing that in isolation, without knowing the context, I couldn’t say for certain what it means. The possibilities are:

1.) Here’s what Donald Trump had to say. He said A, then he moved on to B, then he told us C…etc…

2.) Here’s what Donald Trump HAD to say. He needed to explain X, he needed to clarify Y, but alas this wasn’t forthcoming…etc…

Without the wider context it isn’t possible to know for certain.

(Although it will be noticed from my earlier post, I said it was probably the former rather than the latter…)