Unit 5: Christmas every day
'Have to' and 'must'
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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?
Listen to the audio
Hello. Welcome to 6 Minute Grammar with me, Finn.
And me, Alice. Hello.
In today’s programme we’re talking about have to and must…
Have to and must. We’ll look at what they mean…
We’ll find out how to use them in sentences…
We’ll have a pronunciation tip…
And we’ll do some practice with a quiz.
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.
I have to leave work early today.
I must leave work early today.
Thanks Catherine. I have to leave and I must leave. Those sentences have pretty similar meanings – but that’s not always the case.
So let’s look more closely at have to. Catherine.
My doctor says I have to lose weight.
If you go to Russia, you have to get a visa.
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.
Yes, with have to, the obligation usually comes from someone else: a doctor, a government… or maybe your boss.
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:
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.
So that’s must for personal necessities.
We can also use must to make recommendations, like this:
When you go to Germany, you must try Bratwurst. It’s delicious!
We sometimes see must in formal notices or rules of an organisation. A hospital sign might say:
Visitors must wash their hands before leaving the ward.
Now, let’s look at negatives. First: don’t have to.
Ok: if you don’t have to do something, it isn’t necessary to do it, but you can if you want. Catherine.
In the UK, you don’t have to drink alcohol in pubs.
Don’t have to means: it’s your choice. But mustn’t means: don’t do it: It is necessary not to do it.
You mustn’t eat meat that's old.
In other words: don’t eat meat that’s old – it could make you ill.
So – we can use mustn’t for both rules, and personal recommendations. Catherine.
You mustn’t forget to call your sister!
Passengers must not speak to the driver while the bus is moving.
Passengers must not… that sounds serious.
It does. The long form must not is more formal than the short form mustn’t.
You’re listening to BBC Learning English dot com.
And we’re talking about must and have to. Now, a quick word about tenses.
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.
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.
Now: time for that pronunciation tip we promised you.
Yes: In natural speech, have to and must can get a bit squashed.
I have to go to the doctor.
I must join a gym.
So have to sounds like hafta: I have to [hafta] go to the doctor. Hafta.
And must sounds like 'mus' without the final ‘t’ sound: I 'musjoin' a gym. 'Mus'.
So listen out for those sounds in our quiz.
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.
And that’s a personal recommendation.
That’s right… number 2. Again, is this a rule or is it a personal recommendation? You mustn’t smoke in the building.
No smoking in the buildings – that’s a rule.
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!
And in the past it’s: I had to have a cup of tea.
Well done if you got all those right!
There’s lots more about must and have to on our website at bbclearningenglish.com. Join us again for more 6 Minute Grammar.
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!
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.
officially finishes, usually after a particular date
can’t complain; not bad (said after someone asks 'How are you?')