Have To vs. Need To vs. Must – What’s the difference in English?

Sep 13, 2017 | 29 comments

  • I need to go to the store.
  • I have to go to the store.
  • I must go to the store.
  • I need to go now.
  • I have to go now.
  • I must go now.

Do these sentences mean the same thing? Can we always use them in the same way?

Let’s find out in today’s Confident English lesson.

Need to vs. have to vs. must can be used as synonyms. Sometimes. That’s the good news.

Generally, they all mean that you’re talking about a responsibility, an obligation, or something that is important to do. This is where they are similar. In positive sentences.

But there are some small differences in connotation and how we use them. (Connotation is the feeling or idea a word gives in addition to its meaning.)

And then, in negative sentences (for example, don’t have to and mustn’t), the meanings are not at all similar.

This means you must be careful about which verb you use. Let’s take a closer look at how English speakers use these verbs in everyday conversation. I want you to learn how to use them in the same way.

What do these mean in real daily English? How are they similar or different?

Lesson by Annemarie

Practice Have to, Need to, and Must in English

Now that you’ve watched the lesson, let’s get some practice. You can share with me in the comments below. And when you do, it means you’ll get feedback from me, so don’t miss that opportunity.

  1. To start, tell me something that you need to do this week. This means it’s something that is important to you.
  2. Now share with me a work or study obligation you have soon. Maybe it’s this week. Maybe next weekend. But it is a necessity for work or school.
  3. Can you give me an example of something that you really want or desire using the correct verbs from our lesson?
  4. And finally, give me an example of something that is your choice. Maybe you have the option to do something this weekend. What is it?

With these examples, be sure to follow the general rules from the lesson about whether you should use need to, have to, or must in the positive and negative forms.

Have a great week!

Annemarie

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