Have to vs. Have got to

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Have to and have got to mean almost the same and imply ‘to be obliged or find it necessary to do the specified thing.’ Have got to is more common in informal situations. Have (got) to comes before the main verb and it is often contracted in speaking:

 

I have to go home.                  (a simple statement)

I have got to go home.            (emphasis on ‘got’; shows more urgency

 

You have to try on these shoes. They are so trendy.

You don’t have to pay for your travelling. You’re going on a freebie.

There’s not much time left for you to do all you have to do. You’ve to be serious.

They’ve got to be extra cautious with animals in the zoo. Few of them have died of severe winter.

You’ve got to do your homework by yourself because your private tutor has left the job.

You’ve got to push the elevator button a bit more forcefully.

You’ve got to fill in this form to enrol in evening classes at the community college.   

Frank cancelled our little dinner plans for tonight. He’s (got) to work late.

You can’t enter this country. You have (got) to get your documents.

 

Notice that have (got) to cannot be followed by a modal verb:

They’ve to walk the dog before they go to bed.                    √     

They’ve to must walk the dog before they go to bed.            

 

We also use Have (got) to without main verb when the main verb and any complement of the verb is definite:

Does he have to run for office this year? Yes, he has (got) to.

 

Notice that we form the negative of have got to by adding not after have. We never use don’t, doesn’t, didn’t:

You haven’t got to require proof of identity to register at the library.            

You don’t have got to require proof of identity to register at the library.        

 

When we form questions with have to, we use do, does, did before the subject:

 Do we have to ask the waiters which menu items are vegetarian?

 

Be careful! The subject and have change positions to form questions with have got to:

 Have we got to ask the waiters which menu items are vegetarian?

 

We also use Have (got) to to make deductions or draw conclusions. However, in this context, must is more common:

You parted company with Freddie with a degree of sadness. This must be a tough time for you.

You parted company with Freddie with a degree of sadness. This has got to be a tough time for you.

Emily threw party for the senior class yesterday but Sharon didn’t show up. There’s got to be a reason.

 

Notice that Have got to can be used in the present tense only while Have to can be used in a variety of forms:

You’ve got to show your support by signing your name on this sheet.

Not: You’d got to show your support by signing your name on this sheet.  

 

In British English, the past participle of the verb get is got while American speakers say gotten.

You could have got struck by lightning just walking out of your house.       (British English)

You could have gotten struck by lightning just walking out of your house.  (American English)

She’s gotten rather plump lately.

Have you got any sugar? (but NOT Have you gotten …)

 

Be careful! Have got to is NOT common in the negative form in US English. Use don’t and doesn’t with have to:

Sunday they don’t have to get me up at the crack of dawn.

I don’t have to be at the party until 10pm tomorrow.

She doesn’t have to start her new gym classes until August 19th.

 

In questions, don’t use ‘do’ or ‘does’. Instead, change the word order in the same way as the verb ‘to be’ and modal auxiliaries:

They have got a luxurious villa on the west bank of the River Euphrates. = Have they got…?

He has got a farmhouse in the Norwegian countryside. = Has he got…?

You have got room for Emily in the car. = Have you got…?

 

Avoid have got and have got to (meaning must), if you could do with have and have to:

I have (got) some here.            

They haven’t (got) any more.   

I have (got) to go to the office. 

 

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