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Playing a sport, any kind of sport, coming from a sports oriented family and not trying hard, you have sooner or later to face some awkward questions at dinner, such as...

Source: Tennis Arena 11/2015 - CZ

Written by: Sylva Plischke (GER)

I find this as a really strange use of "have to" divided into two parts. For me the best and most usual way to write this would be "sooner or later you have to face some..

However I am not a native speaker and I can´t feel whether the former sentence is incorrect or not. If both uses of "have to" are correct - please tell me, what is the difference between them? Is the former more formal e.g.?

Thanks!

  • Where did you find the sentence? Can you link the source? I can only Google this source which doesn't seem to be an English site. – user140086 Jan 1 '16 at 12:06
  • @Rathony Unfortunately, I can´t. It comes from a magazine which doesn´t have it´s own webpage or something. I just could rewrite more sentences from the article if necessary. The source you mention was started by my and yes - it is not an English site. People on the site aren´t 100 % sure so I started this thread hoping to get some answers. – TH92 Jan 1 '16 at 12:13
  • What is the name of the magazine? You always need to include a source of your sentence in your question. – user140086 Jan 1 '16 at 12:17
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    I suspect the writer wanted to write "have to sooner or later face ... ", but because the nonsense about split infinitives has been drummed into them, they move the adverbial phrase to before the 'to'. – Colin Fine Jan 1 '16 at 12:30
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    It is a little awkward, but is not improper, and might be justified, eg, as avoiding a repetitious pattern relative to sentences above and below. One can argue that there should be some additional commas, but that is a matter of opinion/judgment in this case. – Hot Licks Jan 1 '16 at 14:04
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The comma, possibly the most complex punctuation mark, is a necessary writing tool.

The "sooner or later" is a mid-Sentence interrupter and therefore deserves some commas. You can interrupt pretty much any sentence in any way although some will sound less natural. I agree that dividing "have to" here is a bit unnatural; unless you really want to emphasise "sooner or later" it should be avoided.

  • Starting a sentence with 'sooner or later' certainly sounds quite acceptable. But here, "Playing a sport, any kind of sport, coming from a sports oriented family and not trying hard, sooner or later you have to face some awkward questions at dinner ..." is too awkward to be easily understood at first sight. The original is something of an improvement, but I'd prefer two sentences. ' – Edwin Ashworth Jan 1 '16 at 14:09
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All of these are OK:

You have sooner or later to face it.
Sooner or later you have to face it.
You have to face it sooner or later.

Also OK, but a bit stilted:

You sooner or later have to face it.
You have to sooner or later face it.

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It’s not wrong, and it’s certainly not at all unusual to put a modifier immediately before the verb in a to-infinitival complement clause. Often it is better and more natural, but in your example, I think it would be more natural to position it thus:

Playing a sport, any kind of sport, coming from a sports oriented family and not trying hard, you sooner or later have to face some awkward questions at dinner, such as...

Playing a sport, any kind of sport, coming from a sports oriented family and not trying hard, you have to sooner or later face some awkward questions at dinner, such as...

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Alexandra Cornilescu, in her article Infinitive Clauses sees no problem about the grammaticality (as opposed to unambiguousness) of [V ...Adv ... to-INF comp] with

'In example ... (21a) below, the adverb entirely may refer to either verb:

(21) a. He failed entirely to comprehend it.'

However, have to is a periphrastic modal, an idiomatic modal auxiliary, and there is no guarantee its behaviour is identical. As OP says, there may be more cohesiveness between the 'have' and the 'to' here than in say [try] [to see]. Comparison with the behaviour of other periphrastic modals (be able to, be supposed to etc) does not help much as their form is dissimilar.

I haven't found any article covering this topic, but the number of Google hits for "have usually to" confirms my opinion that it is generally considered acceptable (though some examples do put parenthetical commas around the adverb). With other adverbials, the situation can soon become very clunky, and grammaticality should defer to other considerations.

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