It seems to have the function of phrasal modals, but it has limited use and can not be conjugated in other tenses/aspects.

I have yet to meet him.
  • When you say it can't be conjugated, what do you mean? I have yet..., he has yet... Tense: we had yet... How would that compare to yet as an adverb? Mar 19 '16 at 19:10
  • Collins AED defines the string as: have yet to (do something) Definitions: to have not yet (done something) ⇒ we have yet to win. So, as medica suggests, 'yet' is really an adverbial. 'Have to [do something]' usually means 'need to', but not here. I'd say its a non-modal auxiliary usage. Mar 19 '16 at 19:18
  • Yet can't be an adverbial in "have yet to" because if it is removed, it would not have the same meaning at all.
    – William
    Mar 19 '16 at 19:22
  • @William By that analysis, neither is 'still' in 'We have still to win'. You're trotting out a rule-of-thumb that is here throwing up an exception. Mar 19 '16 at 19:24
  • @William I'd amended the comment to shed the ambiguous version. Mar 19 '16 at 19:27

No, have yet to is not a modal. Your perception is correct, however, in that it has something in common with modals. The have yet to VP construction is a negative idiom, starring the negative polarity item yet. Like modals, negatives are Operators, which focus on one particular item in a sentence (normally it's the one that's stressed in speech; in writing it's not so simple).

A sentence like

  • I have yet to see him.

is transformed from (and means the same as)

  • I have not yet seen him.

Socially, have yet to Vinf falutes slightly higher than have not yet Vppt.
The latter is normal discourse, while the former is redolent of 19th-century prose.

  • Why do linguists seem to Capitalize Random Terms of Art? Electrical engineers don't capitalize Volt, architects don't capitalize Frieze, sailors don't capitalize Transom, mathematicians don't capitalize Set, leathernecks don't capitalize Rig, pirates don't capitalize Booty, etc. (+1 btw)
    – Dan Bron
    Mar 19 '16 at 21:34
  • I couldn't say why linguists do so. I did so in this case because I usually try to indicate which terms are the important ones. An old professorial habit, I spose. Operators (negatives, modals, and quantifiers of all kinds) constitute something like half of the questions we get here, and we flub most of them. Mar 19 '16 at 23:11

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