Learn English – “Without first having…” vs. “Without having to first…”


Which one of the following is better?

Without first having…

Without having to first…

Is there a difference?

Best Answer

Neither is better but they have slightly different purposes.

The first will be followed often by a noun (e.g. "Without first having pie, how can you appreciate cake?"). It may also be followed by some verb constructions (e.g. "Without first having tasted the wine, the cheese may have seemed inadequate.")

The second one might be used in a context like "Without having to first consult the magistrate, William was now free to arrest whomever he pleased."

The meaning of the phrasing is very context dependent and I'm not sure a perfect general rule could be made for when to use one of these constructions over the other. However, generally I would use the first construction if I were describing a series of events with the second one contingent upon the first and both events having to happen. Whereas I would use the second construction if I were describing an event that did not happen but might normally be required. In other words, the first phrase is used to relate two events which are contingent upon each other whereas the second phrase is used to clarify that one event did not happen out of two plausibly related events.