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"I saw you talking with our neighbour: what did he have to say?"

For me, What did he have to say? is semantically odd question.

Can anyone explain the meaning of this question?

Thanks a lot for your help.
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A reasonably common remark, Teo. It means what information/conversation did he present/offer? It means roughly the same as What did he say? We use the phrase when we suspect that the third party wished to comment, and we would like to know what s/he said.

(PS: have means possess; it is not the semi-modal have to.)

Hi, MM,

Am I wrong to think that when you use that expression, you need to have the topic mentioned? E.g.: "I saw you talking with the neighbour... I bet you were talking about yesterday's dinner! What did he have to say?"
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That is a common feature of the context, Pieanne, but I don't think it's necessary. I at least say such as: Oh, you saw old Jinks yesterday?-- what did he have to say for himself? The meaning is not that I expect Jinks to have talked of any particular topic, but I did expect that he would have some comment to make, as he is a talkative or opinionated fellow.
Thank you, MM!
I made a wrong analysis. I thought that 'what' is the object of say. Now I know that 'what' is the object of have.

What did he have to say? He had to say somthing. (wrong)

What did he have to say? He had something to say. (correct)

Thank you very much.
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Hello Teo and Forum,

Would you please elaborate why the first sentence is wrong?
Rishonly
Hello Teo and Forum,

Would you please elaborate why the first sentence is wrong?

What did he have to say? He had to say somthing. (wrong)
What did he have to say? He had something to say. (correct)


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Not sure whether this is correct, but this is my understanding.

==> Maybe it is idiomatic difference. "HAVE TO" = must

But in this case, it does not imply that he must say something, but he is simply asking, "What did he say?"
Yes, that's right. There's one question and two possible answers, but the "had to" is different.

"He had to say something" is simple past of must > have to > had to = he *musted say something

"He had something to say" is he had got something to say, "something" is direct object to "had" (possessed).
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