Session 2

In this session we look at the unit’s new language in more detail, and learn the rules for how to use must and have to.

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'Have to' and 'must'

It's time for 6 Minute Grammar. This week Finn and Alice discuss how we talk about obligations in English using 'have to' and must'. Remember, you don't have to listen to it right now: you can subscribe to the podcast version.

Here's a question for while you listen: Do you have to drink tea when you visit the UK?

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Finn
Hello. Welcome to 6 Minute Grammar with me, Finn.

Alice           
And me, Alice. Hello.

Finn
In today’s programme we’re talking about have to and must…

Alice
Have to and must. We’ll look at what they mean…

Finn
We’ll find out how to use them in sentences…

Alice
We’ll have a pronunciation tip…

Finn
And we’ll do some practice with a quiz.

Alice     
So let’s get started. We use both must and have to in front of verbs, to talk about obligations – things that are necessary. In natural English, they often have very similar meanings. And here's Catherine to demonstrate.

Catherine      
I have to leave work early today.

I must leave work early today.

Finn
Thanks Catherine. I have to leave and I must leave. Those sentences have pretty similar meanings – but that’s not always the case.

Alice              
So let’s look more closely at have to. Catherine.

Catherine     
My doctor says I have to lose weight.

If you go to Russia, you have to get a visa.

Alice              
So we use have to for things that are necessary – including laws. You can’t go to some countries without a visa – you have to get one.

Finn
Yes, with have to, the obligation usually comes from someone else: a doctor, a government… or maybe your boss.

Alice              
And this is where must is sometimes different. Must often suggests that the speaker decided themselves that it’s necessary to do something. Here are some examples:

Catherine
I’m putting on weight. I must join a gym.

I haven’t spoken to my sister this week. I must give her a call.

Finn
So that’s must for personal necessities.

Alice
We can also use must to make recommendations, like this:

Catherine
When you go to Germany, you must try Bratwurst. It’s delicious!

Alice
We sometimes see must in formal notices or rules of an organisation. A hospital sign might say:

Catherine
Visitors must wash their hands before leaving the ward.

Alice
Now, let’s look at negatives. First: don’t have to.

Finn
Ok: if you don’t have to do something, it isn’t necessary to do it, but you can if you want. Catherine.

Catherine     
In the UK, you don’t have to drink alcohol in pubs.

Alice
Don’t have to means: it’s your choice. But mustn’t means: don’t do it: It is necessary not to do it.

Catherine     
You mustn’t eat meat that's old.

Finn
In other words: don’t eat meat that’s old – it could make you ill.

Alice              
So – we can use mustn’t for both rules, and personal recommendations. Catherine.

Catherine     
You mustn’t forget to call your sister!

Passengers must not speak to the driver while the bus is moving.

Alice
Passengers must not… that sounds serious.

Finn                
It does. The long form must not is more formal than the short form mustn’t.

IDENT                     
You’re listening to BBC Learning English dot com.

Finn
And we’re talking about must and have to. Now, a quick word about tenses.

Alice
Yes: it’s important to note that we don’t use must in the future or the past. Instead, it’s will have to for the future and had to for the past. Catherine.

Catherine     
You must talk to your doctor. You’ll have to see her tomorrow.

You didn’t have to answer all the questions in yesterday's exam, but you must answer all the questions in today's exam.

Finn                
Now: time for that pronunciation tip we promised you.

Alice              
Yes: In natural speech, have to and must can get a bit squashed.

Catherine
I have to go to the doctor.

I must join a gym.

Alice              
So have to sounds like hafta: I have to [hafta] go to the doctor. Hafta.

Finn
And must sounds like 'mus' without the final ‘t’ sound: I 'musjoin' a gym. 'Mus'.

Alice
So listen out for those sounds in our quiz.

Finn            
Ooh yes, we must have a quiz before we go. I’ll say a sentence with must. You decide if I’m talking about a rule or if it’s just a personal recommendation. Ready? Number 1. I need some exercise. I must go to the gym.

Alice              
And that’s a personal recommendation.

Finn                
That’s right… number 2. Again, is this a rule or is it a personal recommendation? You mustn’t smoke in the building.

Alice              
No smoking in the buildings – that’s a rule.

Finn
That’s right. Number 3. I’m going to say a sentence in the present tense, and you have to put it into the past. Here goes: I must have a cup of tea!  

Alice              
And in the past it’s: I had to have a cup of tea.

Finn            
Well done if you got all those right!

Alice
There’s lots more about must and have to on our website at bbclearningenglish.com. Join us again for more 6 Minute Grammar.

All
Bye. 

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You can download 6 Minute Grammar from our Unit 5 downloads page or from our 6 Minute Grammar podcast page.

Do you have to drink tea if you visit the UK? No, of course you don't have to, but you can if you want!

End of Session 2

Well done! That's the end of this session. We hope you enjoyed practising using must and have to, and improving your pronunciation.

In the next session we're going to meet a lady called Aunt Jude. With her help, we'll learn how to use must and have to to talk about the past and future, and how to use the informal expression have got to.

See you there!

Session Grammar

  • If you must do something, it is necessary for you to do it, but this is often your opinion or a rule that you have made yourself.

    If you have to do something, it is necessary for you to do it. It’s a law, an obligation or a fact.

    If you don’t have to do something, it isn’t necessary to do it, but you can if you want.

    If you mustn’t do something, it means ‘don’t do it’. It is necessary not to do it.

Session Vocabulary

  • expires
    officially finishes, usually after a particular date

    mustn’t grumble
    can’t complain; not bad (said after someone asks 'How are you?')