The following test question appeared for turning regular sentences into questions without using 'wh- words':

The dog had to be taken to the vet because he had eaten a whole shoe.

The answer should be: Did the dog have to be taken to the vet because he had eaten a whole shoe?

However, many students mistook 'had' for an auxiliary verb, and turned the sentence into: Had the dog to be taken to the vet. (Switching the auxiliary verb and the subject.)

I have been trying to think of a way to explain this to them when we come to discussing it, but I'm having trouble picking apart the grammatical construction of 'had to be taken'.

It looks like the present perfect, but then why wouldn't the auxiliary rule work, and I am not sure how to place the 'to be'.

I feel like I should know what this is, but I can't figure it out.


1 Answer 1


Auxiliary have partners with the past participle of the verb, not with the infinitive.

To be taken is the passive infinitive.

To take is the normal (active) infinitive.

My car had to be taken to the shop.

I had to take my car to the shop.

The subject changes but the verb have has the same meaning in the active and passive. It expresses the idea of a need or necessity, like must.

You have to get some sleep. You look really tired.

You have to drink water to stay alive.

The nature of the necessity is expressed in the infinitive clause, to get some sleep and to drink water (to stay alive).

  • auxiliary have partners?
    – Lambie
    Feb 7, 2019 at 15:23
  • @Lambie: What is it you don't understand about the verb partners?
    – TimR
    Feb 7, 2019 at 19:00
  • /Auxiliary have partner/ must be some kind of typo. Why not fix it?
    – Lambie
    Feb 7, 2019 at 19:02
  • /Auxiliary have partner/ is a reado not a typo
    – TimR
    Feb 7, 2019 at 19:02
  • 1
    @Lambie lol, you need to fix the settings or system preferences of the smartphone/laptop/computer you're using. Now, I understand why you keep saying you cannot use bolding in your posts. Try here meta.stackexchange.com/questions/307120/…
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 7, 2019 at 22:36

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.