Meaning of "must have" as a modal

Moderator: JackFrost

User avatar
Woods
Posts: 522
Joined: 2007-11-14, 12:43
Gender: male
Country: FI Finland (Suomi)

Meaning of "must have" as a modal

Postby Woods » 2020-09-30, 9:07

I have a doubt here: if you say "You must have been aware of the circumstances," does that mean that the person would have known about the circumstances, or that they had an obligation to know like in the present, or it could be both?

I ended up using "you should have known" instead because it's clear it states an obligation, even though I would have used "must have" if it was stronger, but wasn't introducing a doubt about whether they knew or not.

User avatar
linguoboy
Posts: 24311
Joined: 2009-08-25, 15:11
Real Name: Da
Location: Chicago
Country: US United States (United States)

Re: Meaning of "must have" as a modal

Postby linguoboy » 2020-09-30, 12:48

Woods wrote:I have a doubt here: if you say "You must have been aware of the circumstances," does that mean that the person would have known about the circumstances, or that they had an obligation to know like in the present, or it could be both?

It’s purely epistemic: You’re saying it’s not possible the person could not have known.

I ended up using "you should have known" instead because it's clear it states an obligation, even though I would have used "must have" if it was stronger, but wasn't introducing a doubt about whether they knew or not.

“Should have” to me clearly expresses an obligation but implies they did not know. I can’t think of a single modal expression which conveys both.
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons


Return to “English”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest