I must have done it or I had to do it

DeletedC1Kwiziq community member

I must have done it or I had to do it

Both of the sentences above are translated as "J'ai du le faire".

BUT the two formulations in English have not-very-subtle differences in meaning.

"I had to..."  implies "I was obligated to.."  or "I was forced to..."  - very definite!

"I must have..."  implies "I may have forgotten to ..."  -- quite indefinite!

How are these different flavors of meaning expressed en francais?

Asked 2 years ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Chris, 

To avoid the confusion between possibility and obligation you can always use another verb that indicates obligation -

Il a fallu que je le fasse = I had to do it ( I had no other choice)

J'ai été obligé/e de le faire = idem 

A couple of sentences illustrating this situtation -

J'ai dû perdre mes clés au marché = It's quite probable that I  /I must have /lost my keys in the market

Il a fallu que je retourne au marché pour voir ...= I had to go back to the market to look ...

Hope this helps!

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

The distinction in French is less clear than it is in English. Often, to express that one simply had to do something, one uses the imperfect.

I had to do it for myself. -- Je devais le faire pour moi-même.
Sorry, I just had to do it. -- Désolé, je devais simplement le faire.

I know, this then causes some ambiguity with the "should have" meaning of devoir used in the imperfect. To be absolutely clear, one needs context or use a different expression altogether.

To say "I should have done it", you can use the conditional:

I should have done that. -- J'aurais dû faire ça.

Expressing "I must have done that", normally uses the passé composé:

I must have done that. -- J'ai dû faire ça.

Again, in French there's less of a clear-cut distinction between those different meanings than in English. One just has to live with it. I'd be interested to learn how a native speaker sees this.

Deleted asked:View original

I must have done it or I had to do it

Both of the sentences above are translated as "J'ai du le faire".

BUT the two formulations in English have not-very-subtle differences in meaning.

"I had to..."  implies "I was obligated to.."  or "I was forced to..."  - very definite!

"I must have..."  implies "I may have forgotten to ..."  -- quite indefinite!

How are these different flavors of meaning expressed en francais?

Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

Ask a question

Find your French level for FREE

Test your French to the CEFR standard

Find your French level
I'll be right with you...