have got to | have to | don’t have to

Here are two student examples of using semi-modal ‘have to’ to express either a strong suggestion or that something isn’t required or necessary.

Another thing is 

you have to make sure

that you have included signal words 

to help the reader.

PELIC Arabic female level 3 writing class.


I mean

 if someone wears something,

 you don’t have to wear that 

because she or he wears it.

TLC male Spain B1 speaking test.

Listen to this question example:

Does it have to be this way?

This is often used to question the necessity or inevitability of a current situation or condition. The speaker is asking if the present circumstances are the only possible outcome, or if there are other alternatives. This phrase can express doubt, frustration, or a desire for change. It’s a way of questioning whether things could be different or better.


*Note, the reduced clause ‘you don’t have to‘ is the 9th most frequent 5-word Ngram in English.

iWeb 123,895

Profiling Research

In the English Grammar Profile, B2 Point 131 in the category of MODALITY is defined:

‘you have (got) to’ to make a strong suggestion.

Because the ‘have (got) to structure is found at lower levels too, it is hard to find this formally and because it requires interpretation (not obligation).  This structure is found with a great deal of A1 vocabulary.  There are 5 A2 grammar points that cover “have (got) to”:

A2 point 16 in the category of VERBS SEMI-MODAL AUXILIARY VERBS, ‘HAVE (GOT) TO’

In the category of MODALITY:

A2 Point 18  have (got) to affirmative forms.

A2 point 23 ‘have (got) to’ to talk about obligations.

A2 point 37 have (got) to question forms

Comments LOW FREQUENCY ITEM. There are very few instances of the question form at any level, possibly due to task effect or absence of spoken data.

A2 point 51 have (got) to negative forms.


Click on the following links for the following forms:

B1 the infinitive form: “to have to” 

B1 fixed expression “I have to admit”

C2 for other tenses and the usage of conclusions and deductions.

Notice the contractions in the most common phrases in PlayPhrase.Me from a search for “got to” (in bold) + AI completed examples:

  • We’ve got to go now because it’s getting late.
  • You’ve got to go to the store and pick up some groceries.
  • We’ve got to find a solution to this problem.
  • You’ve got to be kidding me, that can’t be true!
  • You’ve got to stop procrastinating and start working.
  • I’ve got to find a way to balance my work and personal life.
  • I’ve got to take my medication at the same time every day.
  • Got to take care of my health.
  • We’ve got to get out of here, it’s not safe.
  • I’ve got to tell you something important.
  • WellI’ve got to admit, I was wrong.
  • There’s got to be something we can do to help.

The phrase “has got to be” (contracted as “There’s got to be”) is used to express a strong belief or necessity.

  • I’ve got to get to the meeting on time.
  • You’ve got to give it your all if you want to succeed.
  • You’ve got to come to the party, it won’t be the same without you.
  • I’ve got to get back to work after this break.
  • I’ve got to go to work early tomorrow.
  • Got to get back to work, there’s a lot to do.
  • I’ve got to go home and rest.
  • I’ve got to get going, I have an appointment.
  • I’ve got to get home before it gets dark.

An iWeb search for:

You have to _VVI

1 MAKE 32516 | 2  GO 31774 | 3 PAY 26720 | 4 GET 25745 | 5 TAKE 24810 | 6  USE 22272 | 7  KNOW 15534


*further collocates:
1 MIND (NN1 ) 2280

  Business Matters
But before doing it, you have to keep in mind certain things to ensure that you don’t face any problems after scrapping your car.

2 EYE (NN1 ) 617
3 TRACK (NN1 ) 473

You have + to-infinitive.

9 WORK 13332 | 10 LOOK 12722 | 11 SAY 11854 | 12 GIVE 11523 | 13 FIND 11407 | 14 PUT 11153 | 15 WAIT 10646 | 16 REMEMBER 10423 | 17 ASK 9678 | 18 UNDERSTAND 9645 | 19 START 9417 | 20 THINK 9284

You’ve got + to-infinitive:

1 GET 2756 | 2 MAKE 1624 | 3 GO 1525 | 4 TAKE 1208 | 5 KEEP 1136 | 6 GIVE 1085 | 7 KNOW 851 | 8 LOOK 777 | 9 FIND 740


  Bendigo Advertiser
I really believe that good things are coming
 and life is turning around.

You’ve got to-infinitive:

11 PUT 665 12 WORK 624 13 REMEMBER 622 14 START 572 15 UNDERSTAND 572 16 LOVE 548 17 THINK 542 18 SEE 509 19 PLAY 469 20 LEARN 439



E! Online
You have got to get outside and take a walk.

3  MAKE 175 | 4  SEE 146 | 5  GO 137


You have got to check out these ladies’ moves!
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If you’re all about weather maps and visualization, you have got to check out the Windy app. 
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You have got to check out Birch Lodge! 
Feb 27, 2020

Exceptions and challenges

Note that ‘have to’ or ‘has to’ does not always mean modality. For example, sometimes a relative clause can come before a to-infinitive:
He hasn’t the time 
(that) a child has
to learn all the skills hes going to need.
So, what does the brain have to do with it?
In the context of the last sentence,  the phrase “have to” is used to inquire about the relationship or relevance of the brain to the subject being discussed. It’s asking how the brain is involved or what role it plays in the situation. The phrase “have to” here does not imply obligation or necessity, which is a common use of this phrase in other contexts. Instead, it’s used to question the connection or involvement of the brain.
Similarly, there is no sure way we can tell without more discourse whether a sentence is expressing obligation or just possession.  For example:
What have I got to say about all this?
It could mean:
What must I say about all this?
What do I have that I want to say about all this?
Without additional context, it’s challenging to determine the exact meaning. The speaker’s tone, the conversation’s topic, and the overall discussion can provide clues to the intended meaning. Language can indeed be quite nuanced!

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