He has to do it. Hasn't he (to)?

Is the 'to' correct/ incorrect/ unnecessary?

Is that a case of an infinitive in interrogative tail (question tag)?

  • 3
    You've got to be kidding, don't you to?
    – Frantisek
    Commented Sep 9, 2012 at 7:36
  • 1
    dont you would be more than enough.
    – Noah
    Commented Sep 9, 2012 at 8:55

3 Answers 3


Have to is an idiom, a paraphrase of the modal auxiliary verb must; it's always pronounced /'hæftə/ (/'hæstə/ in 3SgPres -- always /f/ instead of /v/ and /s/ instead of /z/), and it can't be split up.

Modal paraphrase idioms like hafta, wanna, gotta, etc. are written with to in formal spelling, but that's just a marker for the infinitive that has to follow hasta, and it also has to be all in one unit. You can't say, for instance,

  • *Last night I had three times to get up and go to the bathroom.

instead of

  • Last night I had to get up and go to the bathroom three times.

because it splits up had and to. You can't even contract a negative with it

  • *She hasn't to go to work today; it's a holiday.

is ungrammatical, while

  • She doesn't have to go to work today; it's a holiday.

with Do-Support, is grammatical.

That's why it doesn't form a normal tag question; the tag requires a contracted negative, and that's ungrammatical. Instead, as Rory, Kris, and Noah all suggest, using do/does/did of Do-Support is the correct solution.

  • 1
    +1 interesting! I didn't know that these were unitary lexemes, but it makes so much sense now that I do. Commented Sep 9, 2012 at 15:56
  • Here's the link to your summary of /haeft@/ vs /haevtu/ - which is how I knew who you were a few months before you signed up to ELU, because PLL included the link in his answer to my earlier question about that difference. Commented Sep 9, 2012 at 17:19
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    It's the fact that you don't even bother to deal with the word "have" in isolation that fascinates me. Obviously you're right in that it's just a component of "hafta", which in speech we all treat as a "single unit". Presumably because I normally either write words or speak them (but not both at the same time), I don't automatically recognise that "collapsed into a single unit" at the conscious level. But my Wernicke's area (or Broca's area, or whatever) always gets excited when you tell me something it "knows", that "I" don't! Commented Sep 10, 2012 at 0:25
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    "She hasn't to go to work today" sounds a little old-fashioned and formal, but I would say it is still grammatical.
    – TonyK
    Commented Nov 11, 2016 at 13:55
  • 1
    Must agree with Tony here. “She hasn’t to go to work today; it’s a holiday” and “Last night I had three times to get up and go to the bathroom” are both incorrect (it’s not a holiday, and I slept like a log) and quite a bit precious, if not old-fashioned; but in BrE, they’re both perfectly grammatical as well. Even in AmE, I’d only label them archaising, not ungrammatical. Commented Nov 11, 2016 at 23:39

In this instance you would not need that final 'to' - it would be far too cumbersome.

Or even better:

He has to do it, doesn't he?

as that final part translates as... doesn't he have to?

  • Yes, ", doesn't he?" is the usual and more elegant way, though it isn't possible to explain grammatically as it is.
    – Kris
    Commented Sep 9, 2012 at 10:28
  • Yes. "Hasn't he?" would more often appear as a reply-of-surprise to the news that someone hasn't done something they were supposed to. "He hasn't brought in the horses." "Hasn't he? That little layabout!" Commented Sep 9, 2012 at 15:54
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    This is a use of the non-idiomatic auxiliary verbs have and has (pronounced /hæv/ and /hæz/) of the Perfect construction, and that's the regular situation. The idiom is different. Commented Sep 9, 2012 at 17:18

In OP's specific context, "has" would normally be pronounced "hass", as per this earlier question.

To my ear, "He hass to do it" followed by ", hasn't he?" is "disjunctive", because the first instance of the word is both vocally stressed and pronounced differently to the shortened second occurrence.

In light of the above, I might be tempted to recast OP's version to "He has to do it, has he not?". But in reality, I'd probably say "He has to do it, doesn't he?" - or more likely, I just wouldn't append that slightly awkward question tag anyway. But in no circumstances would I (or any other native speaker, I suspect) echo the word "to" in the tag.

  • You mean that /hæz/ devoices to /hæs/. Saying has and hass is meaningless.
    – tchrist
    Commented Sep 9, 2012 at 16:23
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    @tchrist: I don't see how my failing to use the technical term "devoice" makes any of my text "meaningless". Even I (just about) know the term - but obviously John Lawler would be intimately familiar with it, and he's certainly not averse to using much rarer terminology. But even he didn't feel it necessary to use the word in his answer above. Commented Sep 9, 2012 at 16:39
  • You miss the point: yoor yoozing cylli speekNspelle, instead of IPA, as John did. SpeekNSpelle iz yooceliss.
    – tchrist
    Commented Sep 9, 2012 at 16:45
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    @tchrist: Of course it's not "useless" - it just irritates you, is all. In this specific case, everyone will understand what difference in pronunciation I'm referring to when I write has | hass, but there will certainly be some people who wouldn't get it (or at least, not so easily) if I'd written /hæz/ | /hæs/ Commented Sep 9, 2012 at 16:56

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