Reply to "Didn't have to or needn't have pp"

Hi, all,

I have really enjoyed all these enlightening comments and I just want to focus on just few points:

  1. On the book 'A Guide to the differences between British and American English' by Glenn Darragh, we can see clearly that American English doesn't use 'revise'. The book says Americans use {REVIEW, v - to revise for an exam}. That's why these sentences seemed meaningless to David and DocV at the beginning of this thread.
  2.   When dealing with 'didn't have to' and 'needn't have + PP', we must be careful about the way we teach them and the way native speakers use them in their real life. One of the best books to show my intended meaning is 'L.G. Alexander Longman English Grammar'. It says:

11.57.1 Lack of necessity: 'needn't have', 'didn't have to', 'didn't need to'

These forms mean roughly the same thing in e g:

- / needn't have gone to the office yesterday.

- I didn't have to (or/ didn't need to) go to the office yesterday. (have and need are stressed) (= I went there, but it was unnecessary)

(BTW, this usage isn't found in our books, but it seems that native speakers are used to it.)

When have and need are unstressed, they mean something different from needn't have. 

I didn't have to/didn't need to go to the office yesterday.

(= I knew it was unnecessary and I didn't go).

(This usage is exactly what we teach in our books and of course native speakers are not obliged to follow it).

amalate posted:
Example 2:

On Monday, the teacher said that there would be a test on Wednesday.  I studied/revised Tuesday evening.  On Wednesday, I arrived and the teacher was absent and the test was cancelled.  So, I had studied/revised for no reason.  I could have watched TV instead.  I needn't have revised. (A slight feeling of annoyance for having wasted my time!)

The test example Ahmed provided ends with an exclamation point, which is why I think the author of the test suggested needn't have revised as the answer.  The respondent was a bit annoyed.


I completely agree with you and that's nearly how I explained the model answer to my students. (I told them when a teacher says 'you have an exam tomorrow', you naturally prepare for the exam.) I haven't mentioned the first possibility of using 'didn't have to' or even focused too much on the presence of the exclamation mark, although I know it is essential, mainly because I know that most of our exams lack the correct punctuation.