Poll: What is the past tense of "must"?

What is the past tense of "must"?

Had to
It doesn't have one.

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This Poll:

  • Votes: 17,279
  • Comments: 46
  • Added: July 2003



Into the early twentieth century, people used 'must' as the past tense. Then it disappeared.


I know "must" can be used as a past tense in reported speech. But I have seen it used as a past tense in a translation of Franz Kafka's "The Trial": "it was as if in a moment he must spring up with a violent and probably wrathful gesture [...]"


In my experiences I have heard " must have" sounding like "must've". Rather it is correct or not I don't know. I do think it is acceptable in Americanized English.


Schaheb - that's actually a future form ("in a moment he must = would have to")


im mostly concerned about the present tense of must (musting?) than the past tense. or, i was.


Well, when you say must in a sentence, meaning you don't have any choice but to do it. That is why "I had to do it."

stephen uy

actually i dont have any idea eithier


I think "It must have had to happen" would work. But if you are talking about yourself and you must do something yesterday, you should just say "I should have".


had to just seems fine.


How come there be only two choices? Anyway, must is like hit both present and past tense, at least in my opinion, and you will mostly understand witch one from context.


"Must" is a Saxon imported word and interestingly in old english it was primarily used in past tense more then present tense. Back then the past tense was "Moste" however this got dropped over time and we were left with a present/future tense shortening of that word. If you study German you will find that modal verbs such as these still retain the ability to be used in past tense with a different verbal suffix .. "Ich muss" translates to English as "I must" perfectly, but "Ich musste" can now only translate as "I had to" instead of "I musted". Old English was forced to adapt to new language structure changes whereas German could remain largely intact. But yeah in conclusion, "Must" no longer has a past tense form of itself other than an archaic saxon relic :)

Secsee Devil


It must have been dark.
It had to have been dark?

They are both past tense already.

He must want it. He had to want it? no no no...


"had to" is the past tense of "have to". "must"expresses an obligation that yo`'ve made for yourself, like an objective, and have to" is like a law.

ahmed el sayed

must does not have a past form because it is a modal varb . but there is a usage for obligation in the past with " had to"


For me the past of had to be (Had to) cause it is really make a sens

not a language wiz

The word "must" and the words "had to" have slightly different meanings, but if you need to use the past tense of "must," "had to" almost always works.

There is also "need to," but "need" and "had" also differ slightly.

*For everyone else who submitted comments here, thanks for the help on my language paper.*


Must does NOT have a preterite. If you want to express obligation or necessity in past time then you must use a construction with the non-modal auxiliary 'had' followed by a to-infinitivial complement. But this is only a way round the fact that 'must' has no preterite; it does not mean that it's the preterite form of 'must'.


I MUST agree with adrock's respond. I am learning German and learned that the verb 'must' only has present tense.

Fredrick dundo

First of all it should be understood that the purpose of auxiliary or modal verbs is to,in different forms,write an infinitive without 'to'. (e.g) I {am able to} play chess=I can play chess. He {is going to} feel better tomorrow=He will feel better tomorrow. I {have got to} listen to the speech=I must listen to the speech. As you can notice the words in brackets have been replaced by can,will, and must respectively for they are formed from these words in the brackets.though the past tenses of can and will have been made to be 'could' and 'would' respectively, 'must' by itself will never find a way to be constructed in past tense other than taking the 'have got to' form it represents and converting it into 'had got to'. (i.e) present form>I {have got to} listen to the speech= I must listen to the speech, past form> I had got to listen to the speech.

Mohammad Anwar



I'm with Fredrick.

The semantics behind 'must' and the reason for it not having a past tense is complex, but probably the simplest analogy I can give is this:

'must' is a bit like an imperative, e.g

a past tense of 'must' would be like a past imperative:
"go yesterday!" - which makes no sense.

"had to", is not really an imperative, but rather pointing to the fact that there was an obligation in the past to carry out an action.

the reason people mistakenly believe it is the past tense of 'must' is because there is no reason anyone would use a past imperative (unless we had a time machine?)
the best substitute we have to comment on a previous obligation.


it seems somhow controversial subject but in my point of view there is a slight difference in function between these two items i mean its function between grammer in use and usage could be different and we should consider context.

Kasper Kamstrup

Had to is the past tense of have to. must does not have a past tense


Over 70% believe there is a past tense? You must be kidding.


"must" is not a verb. It is an auxiliary verb which don't have tenses. There is however a past form. Depending on the main verb of the sentence use "must" + past participle form of the main verb. Example: You must do your best to get money


"Must" IS the past tense of must. Also used in conjunction with "needs," as in "he must needs attack before he be defeated."




It can't be "had to" since it corresponds to "to have to". What I would do is be clever and rephrase the sentence to still use must:

Last year I realized that must study harder in school.


All people who are reading this: beware, many comments contain FALSE assertions. Do not believe anything written here that lacks an attempt to prove it.

FALSE: 'Every auxiliary verb is a modal verb.' (Frederick Dondo's assumption)
"Having helped him felt good."
- "Having" in the above sentence is an auxilary verb, but not a modal verb. It does not express 'modality', it expresses 'aspect'. Check Wikipedia for a relatively good explanation.

FALSE: 'Because a word is a modal verb, it cannot logically be marked for tense.' (many's assertion)
- It can logically, and it can in practice. Evidence: it can in other languages very similary to English, like German and Dutch. Some examples from Dutch:
A: "Gisteren moest ik betalen"
A: "Yesterday I must.PAST pay"

B: "Vandaag moet ik betalen"
B: "Today I must pay."

FALSE: 'Had to' is the past tense of 'must'.
Although it is useful as a replacement, 'having to' is not grammatically the past tense of 'to must', as it is a different word, and even in this intended sense, has a (you could contend 'somewhat') distinct meaning.

I personally cannot say for sure whether English has ever used a form to express the past tense of 'must', but the explanation given by Adrock seems plausible.

You can use 'must' to mean the meaning of 'must' but in the past tense, but you may not be understood.


I thought it is correct


what about "must've"????


I only voted 'It does not have one' because it seems the less wrong of both options since ''had to'' certainly is not the past of the verb 'must'.

I agree with people who say that 'must' can basically be used as a present or as a past without a morphological change (similar to e.g. I beat which can be present or past tense). However, this use is becoming more and more obsolete (or, rather, is already obsolete). This would mean that ''When they found out that he had commited the crime he must (~had to) go to jail.'' is just fine.

People mix up different aspects though. I do not see ''must have + participle" as a past form of obligation. It does refer to an event in the past but there is some presumptive connotation in it. For example, present tense ''He must go to jail (because that is what he is sentenced to).'' does not translate to the past as ''He must have gone to jail.'' While the first is an affirmation, the second is a (strong) assumption.

Similarly, ''should have'' is certainly anything but an expression of obligation in the past. It is used to express foregone opportunity, thinking about what ''should have been done'' at an earlier point of time in hindsight, yet cannot be done now because it is too late.
"He should not have driven so fast, he might have avoided the accident."


'Must' is not the same thing as 'have to'..
He must be crazy
He have to be crazy?? No.
'Had to' is the past tense of 'have to'


yas past tense of must is had to


There is no past tense of must and also it will have a different meaning with 'had to' for example:
You must do it.
You had to do it.
With 'had to' in a command means you are 90% recommended to it but with 'must' in a command means you are not allowed not to do it. Hence, 'had to' is the past tense of 'have to and not 'must'.

Mohammed FAQIR

Must is not really a verb, but it is a necessity which can be expressed as a verb as have to. Therefore, putting "must" into the past tense would be expressed as had to.
For instance, I must go to the store today. It would be, I had to go to the store yesterday. it does express the necessity of going to the store.


We use must in two meaning.
1. To say that we are sure that something is true:
You have been travelling all day.You must be tired.(=I am sure that you are tired.)
For the past we use must have(done):
The phone rang but i did not hear it.I must have been asleep.
2.To say that it is necessary to do something.
In this meaning we can only use to talk about the present and future and for the past we just use had to.

Mon Valdlezs

Great Question!!


I prefer to use the correct form, no matter how archaic it may be, which is must, the same as in the present.

Novak Djokovic Fan

It doesn't really have a past tense. Or does it?


Use "had to" or "needed to" or "was forced to" or "had no choice but to," etc. All are substitutes for the past tense of "must," which as a grammatical matter does not exist in modern English, if it ever did.


We cannot use MUST in the past tense. It is not grammatical to say, "I must do it yesterday." Rather, we should say, "I had to do it yesterday." MUST has the same past tense as HAVE TO. You may call it a substitute if you want.

أستاذ سراج

Must in UK equivalent have to in American English. So the past of have to is had to


Had to is the past of must


When I was learning grammar. Had to is the past tense of must.

Mehdi Mohammadi Aghdash

had to

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