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We say "I had to leave," but not "I'd to leave." Why? This is also unlike other auxiliary usage of the verb "had" (e.g. in past perfect tense), so the difference is more nuanced than the had being an auxiliary verb or not; why is this not contracted like other auxiliary usage of the verb?

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"Had" in "I had to leave" is not an auxiliary verb. It can even be used with an auxiliary, e.g. "I have had to leave", "I might have to leave".

And it always (at least in my dialect) has the full "cat" vowel, never a schwa.

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  • +1 It's not contractable. Commented Nov 3, 2023 at 17:11
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Question: We say "I had to leave," but not "I'd to leave." Why? This is also unlike other auxiliary usage* of the verb "had" (e.g. in past perfect tense), so the difference is more nuanced than the had being an auxiliary verb or not; why is this not contracted like other auxiliary usage of the verb?

Answer: had is not an auxiliary there. It is the main verb in the idiom: have to do something.

The past perfect tense of this usage would be:

"We'd had to leave earlier than they thought".

In the sentence above, "had" is the auxiliary and the second one is the past participle of "have".

[By the way, I am not dealing here with the British usage as given in the comments but do agree with Edwin and Fumble Fingers re I'd to [verb] for BrE.]

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  • 'Must' is a modal (auxiliary) in 'I must do something'; 'have to' like 'used to' is considered a semi-modal by some. Commented Nov 1, 2023 at 15:43
  • @EdwinAshworth Yes, but even so. it is not an auxiliary here. And anyway, I already said I agree with you.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 1, 2023 at 15:46
  • Yes. It's a verb, and -- more importantly for contraction rules -- it's stressed. Only unstressed syllables are contracted. The thought seems to be that if you can dispense with the vowel, you don't need the rest either. Commented Nov 1, 2023 at 16:13
  • 'Answer: had is not an auxiliary there. It is the main verb in the idiom: have to do something.' Apparent implication: auxiliaries don't contract. Counterexample: 'He's to leave on Thursday.' formal, but doubtless acceptable in the US as well as the UK. Commented Nov 1, 2023 at 16:17
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    @EdwinAshworth Nope, I didn't say auxiliaries don't contract. You are saying that. He's to leave on Thursday. does not contain an auxiliary. He is=main verb. Otherwise, there would only be an auxiliary and you can't do a declarative utterance with "to leave".
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 1, 2023 at 16:34

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