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An excerpt from "Just this Side of Byzantium" by Ray Bradbury:

I had to send myself back, with words as catalysts, to open the memories out and see what they had to offer.

Why does the author use the auxiliary word "had to" here, making me feel the action "offer" is compulsory? I think it'd be better to leave out "had to."

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    You're parsing it wrong (not surprising, since the grammar is ambiguous). It's not "what they (had to) offer", it's "(what they had) (to offer)." That is, the main verb is had, and to offer is an infinitive that follows it. What it means is: what they contained and could offer. – Peter Shor Nov 12 at 13:09
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'Had' is not used in the same sense in 'had to offer' as it is in 'had to send'.

In 'had to send' 'had' denotes, as you observe, a sense of compulsion. In 'had to offer' it denotes possession.

To paraphrase; the speaker feels compelled to send himself back, with words as catalysts, to open the memories out and see what they have, that they can offer.

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