Had to/must in past tense of reported speech (Comment)

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I do have to address the issue of must in past contexts, and not just in "reported" or "indirect" speech. Must in its senses of either strong obligation or of strong probability is not only acceptable, it's usual in dependent clauses after verbs like told, knew, felt, realized, etc., in the past (notice that the verbs are not just verbs of speech). Even Otto Jespersen, in Essentials of English Grammar (1933), recognizes this usage, citing

She said she must be back by seven.

He knew suddenly who the woman must be.

Below are some of the many instances of the past uses of must in dependent clauses that I found by looking in the COBUILD corpus, using simply "that he must" as the query phrase. You can see that it's very common.

I realized that he must be the man who produced the..

.left Taylor facing problems that he must solve.

.rejected the suggestion that he must choose between supporting.

.chairman wisely reminded him that he must either ask a question or be quiet.

It's pretty futile to tell learners that must should be changed to had to in all past contexts. Like Mr. James Yeh, who asked the original question, learners will find must used frequently in past contexts. It's more realistic to advise them to use had to in past tense independent clauses, and to use must in dependent clauses (usually noun or adjective clauses) when the sense is that of strong obligation or strong probability.

Marilyn Martin

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