Didn't have to or needn't have pp

Hello, 

The following sentence is from a school book:

"We didn't have a test today so I .............for it last night!"

A- didn't have to revise

B- needn't have revised 

The guide of answers says "B"

But I inquire why not "A".

I think that "A"  is OK as it means that we didn't revise last night because we didn't have a test today.

Original Post

Ahmed,

I do beg your pardon, sir.  Please note that this definition is flagged as BrE, which means strictly British usage, whereas David and I were both born and raised in the United States, where this forum is based, and we are not necessarily familiar with all the British variants.  I was not previously familiar with this definition of "revise", although, now that you bring it to my attention, the Latin roots of the word lend themselves to the idea of "seeing again".  As the word is used in the United States, it means reviewing a text and correcting it based on that new vision (hence "revision", the noun form of the verb "revise").

David, a little help here, if you will.

DocV

Doc V posted:

I do beg your pardon, sir.  Please note that this definition is flagged as BrE, which means strictly British usage, whereas David and I were both born and raised in the United States, where this forum is based, and we are not necessarily familiar with all the British variants.  [. . .] As the word is used in the United States, it means reviewing a text and correcting it based on that new vision (hence "revision", the noun form of the verb "revise").

I must beg your pardon as well, Ahmed, especially since I was so dismissive of your textbook. Obviously, now that I am aware of the possibility of using "revise" in this way in some parts of the world, I have no reason to believe that your textbook is rubbish. The OED (The Oxford English Dictionary -- the mother of all English dictionaries) does mention this usage of "revise." It also notes that it is generally not used in North America.

 2. Education. To go over a subject again.In North American use the more usual term is now review (see review v. 7). 

 a. transitive. To go over or read again (material already studied or learnt) in order to reinforce it, typically in preparation for an examination.

1866   Rep. Minister Educ. (Ontario. Dept. Educ.) 16   The teachers in the smaller sections have not the advantage of revising the subject of examination by classes of an advanced character.
1892   Glasgow Med. Jrnl. 38 220   It is well illustrated and printed, and will be of great assistance to the student in revising the subject.
1917   C. H. Jarvis Teaching Hist. ix. 160   The best form of revision is not oral questioning... The children must carefully revise their knowledge, using note-book and text-book.
1946   ‘B. Truscot’ First Year at Univ. v. 66   Assuming the examination to be in May or June,..[the Easter] vacation should..be devoted to revision, and the work to be revised must be systematically divided up among the time available.
1967   Oxf. Mag. 10 Feb. 205/2   I ask them [sc. Canadian students] to revise a piece of work and with outrageous disobedience they review it.
2002   Times Educ. Suppl. (Nexis) 31 May 18   I found myself spending an entire sunny Saturday afternoon revising GCSE history while my daughter was, sensibly, out playing tennis.
 

 b. intransitive. To reread or relearn work done previously; to prepare for an examination in this way.

1886   Lancet 9 Oct. 679/1   [He] had to grind away at revising for the anatomy and physiology examinations when he ought to have his mind at leisure for the clerkship..he had come to hold.
1905   Jrnl. Educ. Apr. 256/2   The guiding principle of the method being constant revision, the pupils..revise from the beginning at each lesson until the amount of work becomes so great as to leave no time to go further ahead.
1977   C. Dexter Silent World N. Quinn xii. 109   You revise, I suppose?.. I mustn't keep you from your revising.
1994   C. Keatley My Mother said I never Should (new ed.) p. xiv   Doris asks why Jackie hasn't visited them... Margaret fibs that Jackie is busy revising for her exams.
2001   South Wales Evening Post (Nexis) 4 Sept. 6   I had to..fit in my shifts around my exams, revision and housework... [But] I always went out on Saturday night and I never revised on Sundays.

Let's return, then, to your original question here, Ahmed:

Ahmed Abdelhafeez posted:
"We didn't have a test today so I .............for it last night!"

A- didn't have to revise
B- needn't have revised

Contrary to what I said in my first post, which I now regret making, the sentence is correct -- at least in the dialect of English spoken by the author of the book. Whatever dialect of English he or she speaks, we know that it is not American English. The sentence does not work in American English, though it is possible that it worked in AmE a long time ago.

As DocV notes, there can be no objection to it from an etymological standpoint.

If you use "revise" this way around a speaker of American English, please expect the same type of reaction I initially gave you. Even now that I know of this alternate British usage, I will never use it. It is a mere curiosity. Americans would use "revise" in a variation of your sentence in which a school paper was under discussion -- viz.:

  • The term paper isn't due today, so, as it turns out, I (didn't have to revise mine / needn't have revised mine) last night.

Just as "didn't have to revise mine" (i.e., "my term paper") and "needn't have revised mine" can both be used in that variation, which does work in American English, so also both options work in the test question you quoted -- provided that the speaker or writer, and those to whom he is speaking or writing, are not from N. America, in which the question will tend to make no sense whatsoever.

As the OED says, people in North America tend to use "review" instead of "revise" for the meaning that is needed here. Another term that we use in the specific context of school tests is "prepare." That is the verb that I would use here. If I were editing the textbook, I'd recommend that the verb be changed thus (or to "review"), so that the sentence will be comprehensible to AmE speakers:

  • We didn't/don't have a test today, so I needn't have prepared/reviewed for it last night.
  • We didn't/don't have a test today, so I didn't have to prepare/review for it last night.

  • We didn't/don't have a test today, so there was no need for me to prepare/review for it last night.

Thanks for the support, David.

Ahmed, I would like to say one more thing in our defense, which is that most good dictionaries that are published in the United States for use in the United States include strictly BrE definitions for many words.  I don't have access to the complete OED, as David does, but I did at least check all of the dictionaries in my house to make sure that that definition of "revise" did not exist.  The fact that there is no mention at all of such usage in my books indicates to me that it is relatively uncommon everywhere, so much so that it is virtually unknown in the United States, and that it is not particularly prevalent in the UK either.

I owe it to you to continue to research the subject, though.  In the mean time, I like the word "study" to refer to preparing for a test.

As a footnote, I will say that if we accept this definition of "revise", I have to agree with you that both (A) and (B) are equally acceptable answers to your original question.

Respectfully yours,
DocV

I also wonder if the knowledge of the speaker plays a part:

Example 1:

On Monday, the teacher said that there would be a test on Wednesday. On Tuesday, the teacher said that the Wednesday test was cancelled.  So, I didn't have to revise on Tuesday night. (a fact)

(As David mentioned above: We didn't/don't have a test today, so there was no need for me to prepare/review for it last night.)

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.

Thoughts?

Amalate,

This is true.  When I said that both (A) and (B) were acceptable, I didn't mean to imply that they meant the exact same thing.

Welcome to the Grammar Exchange, by the way.

The exclamation point to which you draw our attention does not necessarily change the meaning of the sentence in any way, but I now see that it was probably meant to goad us toward (B) rather than (A).

Incidentally, I find the phrase "needn't have" less common in the US than in the UK, but by no means unacceptable.  (In fact, I use it myself.)  In the States, I think we would be more inclined to say " ... so I didn't have to (study/prepare) for it last night after all!".

Finally, I would like to add that I recently received correspondence from a very dear friend and colleague who is a native Englishman (a Cockney, no less), although he has spent most of his adult life in the United States.  He wrote:

Looking in my old Concise Oxford Dictionary (COD) circa 1957, review and revise have somewhat similar meanings. We used in UK in my time “revise for an exam” for example, I don’t recall anybody using “review “.

For some reason, to my ear, revise sounds like a more thorough study of material for test, review suggests a less rigorous (UK: rigourous) look over the material. Probably just because of the usage from my past.

Thank you, Amalate, for your contribution.

DocV

PS:  Extra special thanks to Mr Peter Campbell.  You've helped me before, and I look forward to the next time.

In the States, I think we would be more inclined to say " ... so I didn't have to (study/prepare) for it last night after all!".

That brings up another issue I had in mind. I remember that once upon a time ESL books presented "needn't have + past participle" as the exclusive form to express that, even if unnecessary, the action was performed, while "didn't need to" (or "didn't have to") was said to be used to express that, being unnecessary, the action was not performed. Nowadays, both "needn't have + pp" and "didn't need to" (or "didn't have to") can be used to express the former idea, as explained in this site.

Thanks for this, Gustavo.  The examples in your link show how "need" can be used as either a true modal or a normal auxiliary verb.  The website stops just short of telling us that, as an actual modal, it need not be inflected, whereas it needs to be inflected when used as a simple auxiliary:

C1: No one under 21 years of age need apply for this position.
C2: No one under 21 years of age needs to apply for this position.

I would say that the difference in meaning is significant.

DocV

PS:  Yes, I know.  I did it on purpose.  Sort of.  Don't you find that the modal form is almost exclusively used in the negative?

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.

Thoughts

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.

Gustavo, Contributor posted:

In the States, I think we would be more inclined to say " ... so I didn't have to (study/prepare) for it last night after all!".

That brings up another issue I had in mind. I remember that once upon a time ESL books presented "needn't have + past participle" as the exclusive form to express that, even if unnecessary, the action was performed, while "didn't need to" (or "didn't have to") was said to be used to express that, being unnecessary, the action was not performed. Nowadays, both "needn't have + pp" and "didn't need to" (or "didn't have to") can be used to express the former idea [. . .].

This thread has had a lot of very interesting developments. I appreciate everyone's contributions, and would like to express my special thanks to DocV's native BrE-speaking informant.

Regarding the distinction between "needn't have" and "didn't have to," I have enjoyed reading everyone's observations. I can confirm that we do indeed use either one in the case where the thing that needn't have been done was done.

Ahmed_btm's point (and by extension, Alexander Longman's point) that stress makes a difference with "didn't have to" is also an important point. When we use "didn't have to" in reference to something that occurred, we do stress "have."

There is one point that has not explicitly come up yet which I think is worth mentioning. In cases where the action did NOT take place, it is NOT possible to use "needn't have" to refer to it. Only one of the following dialogues is correct:

A: Why didn't you review for the test last night?
B: I didn't have to. The test isn't today.

A: Why didn't you review for the test last night?
B: I needn't have. The test isn't today.

In each case, A's question presupposes that B did not review for the test last night. The reason "I needn't have" is an incorrect reply is that it  presupposes the opposite -- that B did review -- and the two presuppositions cannot both be true.

Thank you, Ahmed_btm, for this additional information, and for the reference to Mr Darragh's book.  Of the three of us that have official status on GE, Gustavo is the only one not hindered by the handicap of having been born and raised in the United States.  As a non-native speaker of English, but a highly educated and experienced translator, he has what some would call a "mid-Atlantic" education in English, meaning that he is equally familiar with both British and American English.  I'll go as far as to suggest that he knows BrE better than I do (my education thereof coming largely from Monty Python's Flying Circussssss).  In fact, before I made my first post in this thread, he was confused about why David objected to Mr Abdelhafeez's original question.  The fact remains that I have never seen such a case of a usage that is fairly common in the UK, as the evidence increasingly suggests, but so unheard of in the US that it is not even mentioned in our dictionaries.

The only thing missing from your Alexander Longman examples seems to be the usage that I attempted to demonstrate in (C1) (a model modal negative imperative, if you will).  But then, this usage is outside of the scope of Mr Abdelhafeez's original question.

In response to my question:

Don't you find that the modal form is almost exclusively used in the negative?

Gustavo wrote:

As well as in the interrogative (only in BrE, of course): Need I ...?

Gustavo, yes, it's true with the interrogative as well.  Unlike the definition of "revise" that started this whole mess, I have always been familiar with such sentences as "Need I say more?", so I would not call that strictly BrE, but it does tend to be said in a stiffly formal way.  Also, in addition to the purely negative, the construct works with limiting adverbs or adverbial phrases.  For instance, my earlier example:

C1: No one under 21 years of age need apply for this position.

can be rephrased as:

C1': Only persons over 21 years of age need apply for this position.

Finally, Mr Abdelhafeez, you wrote:

Thank you very much sir (David and DocV).

It is more correct to say or write "sirs" when addressing two or more men.  However, although I sincerely appreciate your show of respect, please don't feel that you need to address me as "sir".  I am here to serve you, after all.  The words "thank you" convey all the respect I would ever ask of you, even if I hadn't given you such a bad answer.

I thank you, sir.  Even though this thread has been a great embarrassment for me (and I daresay for David as well), it has also been a great learning experience for me, and apparently for many others.  I've said this before, but I'll say it again:  I am here not only to teach, but to learn.

With gratitude to all,

DocV

David, you obviously posted while I was still writing my last bit, as often happens, but I don't think I've contradicted you.  In fact, I completely agree with your logic.

There is one point that has not explicitly come up yet which I think is worth mentioning. In cases where the action did NOT take place, it is NOT possible to use "needn't have" to refer to it.

I will say that you are absolutely correct, with regard both to your grammatical point itself, and to the fact that it is, as you so elegantly understate it, "worth mentioning" in the context of this thread.  Rather, I say that your point is essential in order to appreciate the subtle differences among the various uses of the verb "to need" and its possible synonyms in various contexts.

Need I say more?

DocV

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