I have (got) to ...

Discussion in 'English Only' started by majlo, Nov 25, 2005.

  1. I've always wondered. What is the difference between 'have to' & 'have got to'. And maybe there is no difference at all?:confused:
  2. shamblesuk

    shamblesuk Senior Member

    England, English
    It's personal choice, I feel. I usually say 'I've got to......' to keep it short.
  3. James Brandon

    James Brandon Senior Member

    Greater London (UK)
    English + French - UK
    There is no difference in meaning (I've got to finish this report = I have to finish this report). Grammatically, I suppose that, strictly speaking, "I have to do" is the standard and accepted form and there is no need for the "got". Besides, I believe the use of "got" with "have" is typically British English and not that common in American English (but Americans can comment on this). Ultimately, it is a question of register, whereby, in formal and written English, you would say "he has to attend the meeting", whereas in spoken and colloquial English, you might say "he's got to attend the meeting" ("he's got to" = "he has [got] to"). The same is found with "to have", as in: "She has a new car" = "She has got a new car" = "She's got a new car".
    I hope this helps.
  4. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    American English, Palestinian Arabic
    I agree that "have to" is more common in American English. "Have got to" wouldn't really be said in most situations, unless you want to emphasize the urgency/importance of doing something: "I have just got to see that new movie!"
  5. Frankly speaking I asked the question to make myself sure about something. See, I'm an English philology student and in a lecture I've been tought that 'have to' is used to refer to typical situations. For example, I have to wash the dishes. On the other hand, have got to is used for unusual, not typical situations. For example, I've got to wash the dishes because my wife went on a short business trip.
    How would comment on this? Would you agree with the rhetoric of the lecturer? Really curious about that :)
  6. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    American English, Palestinian Arabic
    If I understood you correctly, your teacher is saying that "have to" refers to habitual situations while "have got to" refers to isolated incidents. That is correct, except that "have to" can also refer to isolated incidents.

    I have to wash the dishes. (habitual or isolated incident)
    I have got to wash the dishes. (isolated incident only)

    Whether "have to" refers to a habitual routine or an isolated incident will depend on context. If it were exclusively used to refer to habitual routines, American English could not get away with hardly ever using "have got to."
  7. Yes, you did understand me correctly elroy :) Thank you for your help :)
    God, I'm so happy I've found this forum. Bearing in mind that I'm an English language maniac, the forum is a great source of knowledge for me :):):)
  8. James Brandon

    James Brandon Senior Member

    Greater London (UK)
    English + French - UK
    I believe your lecturer is trying to invent rational distinctions of meaning where there are only irrational vagaries in usage... But that's what a lot of linguists are paid to do - order out of chaos.
  9. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    As one on the outer edge of BE, I found myself wondering, long, long ago, what this have got stuff was all about. I was able to find no rationale for using got. So I stopped. In spoken English, I get more than enough emphasis on have in, "I have to go now" - I don't need to say "I've got to go now." In written English, I don't think I use it either.
  10. James Brandon

    James Brandon Senior Member

    Greater London (UK)
    English + French - UK
    Then again, if you cut out all that is inessential in human forms of communication, we would all speak in Morse code.

    PS Might be quicker and more accurate, in fact.
  11. angeluomo

    angeluomo Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria
    US English (German/French)
    Just an AE clarification here. Elroy has provided some very good insight into the "have got" and "have" debate. However, I am convinced that Americans use "have got" just as frequently as their BE brethren. I also don't buy into the statement from majlo's languague professor about habitual vs. isolated being the differentiator between the two usages. No, it's only a question of preference.

    "I have to go to the dentist" is perhaps more formal and would be more commonly seen in written form.

    "I've got to go to the dentist," would be spoken in manifold situations, but probably not written, unless it were dialogue in a narrative or a quick e-mail.

    The first has a more educated ring to it, the second a more colloquial ring to it. Both are perfectly correct.
  12. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    :) For more profound consideration of the implications of this proposal, see THIS THREAD:D
  13. Yashi

    Yashi Senior Member

    USA, English
    in spoken english (not necesarily correct english), I usually say "I gotta work on my report now", "I gotta go now" etc.
  14. Mariaguadalupe

    Mariaguadalupe Senior Member

    Mexico, Spanish-English
    I side with James apt description of the usage for these two expressions.

    As far as I know, I've got/gotta is quite informal and yes we do use it in AE. In fact, when teaching ESL, we do have quite an extensive chapter in using these idioms; correct to use in spoken language but defer to proper grammar usage when writing.
  15. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    Correct me if I'm wrong.
    I also think have got to is (perhaps) used in AE as much as in BE.
    What I think is more specific to BE isn't so much the use of have got to than the use of "have got" to express posession. As in James Brandon's example
    She's got a new car.

    EDIT : Just to correct a grammatical mistake of mine. I suppose it should be not so much......as (not than)
  16. Yashi

    Yashi Senior Member

    USA, English
    gotta is used in spoken AE all the time but in written english "have to" has got to be more proper
  17. Mariaguadalupe

    Mariaguadalupe Senior Member

    Mexico, Spanish-English
    So you even write tongue-in-cheek, huh Yashi?
  18. Yashi

    Yashi Senior Member

    USA, English
    hahaha yeah it's ironic eh I say "have to" has got to be more proper. I realized that after I wrote it. ;) It seemed appropiate.
  19. joanpeace Senior Member

    Alberta, Canada
    Canada - English
    I think it's just as common to say "I have to do something" as "I've got to do something." The danger of the second phrase is that, when spoken quickly, it ends up sounding like "I got to do something," which of course is grammatically incorrect. Worse yet, many native English speakers intentially say "I got to (or gotta) do something" which must be confusing to new learners and frustrating to purists.

    Now that I've finished complaining, I gotta go.

    (Just kidding ... I have to go)
  20. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.

    As I read through this thread I wondered if no one was going to see that AE uses "got" liberally in that one specific sense, namely "gotta." I gotta go. Excuse me, I have gotta go. Or I've gotta go.

    No really-- I do.

    Oh another thing-- the theory about habitual action is okay, and it's an exception to the "gotta" rule-- I hafta do things, meaning that's just the way it is. I've gotta do something-- it means not only something specific, but something right soon. So "I have to do the dishes (in general)" doesn't change to "I've got to do the dishes" just because my wife is away, even if I don't do them (in general) when she's here. I still have to do the dishes while my wife is away. "I've got to do the dishes because my wife is away" strikes me as very odd-- I've got to do them quick before she gets back, that makes sense. "I've got to do the dishes while my wife is away" means that when she's around she doesn't allow me to. And that definitely doesn't make sense.

    So "habitual" is not the best concept, because it implies an unnecessary permanence-- for "I have to" to replace "I gotta," it simply has to be the state of affairs, the general condition, and that still applies if the condition is temporary.

    Elroy makes a good point about the use of got as emphatic in AE-- we even reverse verb/object order in this regard, also for emphasis, as in "this you've gotta see."
  21. foxfirebrand, thx for detailed explanation :) As a matter of fact, I never use 'have got to' because I always associate it with 'gotta'. The same thing with 'be going to'. Do you Guys often use I'm gonna do it instead of I'm going to do it?
  22. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Well I sure do, but don't be too hasty to emulate my style-- there's plenty of accomplished and linguistically expert people here who don't share my propensity for the basement-level vernacular, and might even see it as my "Achilles heel" and a real annoyance. One reason I don't "clean it up" is so that people will be reminded that my authoritative tone is also a quirk of style, and shouldn't be confused with Gospel on any subject, no matter how good it sounds sometimes.

    These forums are an adjunct to the dictionary pages, and for that reason I try to function as a repository of idiom and native-speaker usage-- which is to say I offer all these mixed-blessing posts off the top of my head and don't look a whole lot up. So wear your hardhats and look out below!
  23. James Brandon

    James Brandon Senior Member

    Greater London (UK)
    English + French - UK
    It seems to me that the use of "gotta" is perhaps more frequent in AE (eg "I gotta go"; "I gotta do it"). It must be a contraction of "got to" ("got to" = "gotto" = pron., "gotta"), as in "gonna" being a contraction of "going to". If "gotta" is frequently used in AE, it would indeed confirm that "have got to do" (and not only "have to do") is the underlying structure that is being referred to. It follows that "have got to do" is also used, and frequently so, in AE. This surprises me: I was convinced that Americans tended to stick to "have to do", even when speaking, while also using "gotta do" in spoken AE. Then again, there could be a confusion on my part with "have got" for possession, which is definitely used more often in spoken BE than in AE ("she has got a new car" = "she's got a new car" = "she has a new car").

    We need to differentiate "have to" for obligation and "have" for possession, of course. There is clearly a consensus that "have to do" is more formal and more correct than "have got to do" (even if the latter is not wrong). Books on matters grammatical confirm this.

    I hope my email makes sense! :)
  24. GenJen54

    GenJen54 Senior Member

    Downright Pleasant, USA
    USA - English
    Gonna, wanna, gotta, etc. are certainly common in everyday spoken AE. They are simply a very easy means of "abbreviating," and contracting common verbal expressions. They're not correct for written, formal AE.
  25. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    I've never used "gonna" or "gotta" (except when quoting dialog) in this forum even though I use lots of contractions. I have no reason to offer, though. I just feel it would look weird maybe. But I've noticed that some other non natives do use them (at least "gonna") sometimes.
  26. Well, when I started my experience with English language I used to use those expressions. Now they stick in my throat.
  27. Isotta

    Isotta Senior Member

    English, Hodgepodge
    Yes, I've noticed this, too. I have friends who speak relatively elegant French, and then when they write in English they use "gonna" and "wanna." Baffling.

    I advocate learning the register you use in your native language.

  28. Stephanagreg Senior Member

    Very interesting. I was not aware of that. Would you say it is about the only situation in which you would use it?
  29. Jose Maria Senior Member

    I live in a place in the high sky called moon. lol
    Granada (España) //// English (GB)
    Have to and have got to are semantically equivalents. Normally have got to is used in informal speech whereas have to is prefered to be used in formal speech. However, the most important point is that have to can be combined with modal constructions (may, will, can, could, might..), progressive constructions (present, past and future continuous) and with perfective constructions with the auxiliary have
    Ej: I may have to buy some food
    They were having to run away because they were in danger
    I have had to wake up this morning earlier because you were making weird noises.

    Unlike Have to, have got to can't be combined with any modal constructions, past or progressive or future or perfective constructions either.
    The following examples must be considered unacceptable.
    EJ: I may have got to but some food
    I was having got to go there

    I would like to know why my previous message has been deleted, Why can't I use spanish in this thread?
  30. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Jose Maria,
    You are very welcome to post in this forum, but please note the forum title - it is English Only.
    Please also note WR Rule #44.
  31. mplsray Senior Member

    As moderator, Cagey referred the original poster of the thread "It's/ gotta...I've/I gotta" to this thread, saying, "People there agree that gotta should not be used in standard written English." Cagey subsequently closed that thread, so I'm adding my comments to this one.

    I don't agree with the opinion expressed. Standard written English is the written English of people who speak a standard dialect of the language. It includes formal as well as informal registers of such a dialect, and gotta is indeed appropriate when a standard speaker is writing in an informal style.

    In the US, you will find it used by a wide variety of writers. The other day I saw it used in an opinion piece in a local paper, and it seemed quite appropriate in context.

    If we want forum members to avoid it when writing posts, but are still sufficiently informal that we allow contractions such as "couldn't" and "don't," that's our right. But the claim that it is never appropriate for use in standard written English is not accurate.
  32. Saurabh

    Saurabh Senior Member

    New Delhi City
    English-British, Hindi
    Thanks Joanpeace,

    It is indeed a beautiful explanation you have brought in here. I've always wondered myself why do natives use "I got to/gotta" instead of "I've got to" when they are meant to say the later. Now, I feel I'm quite clear about it. It should always be" has/have got to" and not "got to/gotta". But yes, if I were telling some past incident and would use "I got to see him on that day" here it would imply that "I had got to see him on that day". Am I all clear in my understanding? Correct me if I'm still wrong.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2009
  33. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    I would understand I got to see him to mean I managed to see him. or I was given the opportunity to see him. .

    But wait for native feedback.
  34. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I don't see "gotta" as [written] standard English.

    I do see it as "eye-dialect".

    [Runs away very fast...:D]
  35. Cagey post mod

    English - US
    I agree; that is true in standard written English and most spoken English.

    In some colloquial speech, people say "I got to see him", as elliptical version of "I have got to see him", omitting "have". This is a spoken dialect, and context along with emphasis (I got to see him) will almost always make it clear what is meant.
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2009
  36. mplsray Senior Member

    This is an example of when gotta comes in handy as a pronunciation spelling when representing speech. "I got to see him." pronounced as four separate words with a clear /t/ in got means "I managed to see him." "I gotta see him." pronounced as four words with a flap instead of /t/ in the middle of gotta means "I need to see him." or "I am obligated to see him." The spelling difference serves a similar function to the difference between "alright" meaning "okay" and "all right" meaning "all correct."
  37. Saurabh

    Saurabh Senior Member

    New Delhi City
    English-British, Hindi
    Thanks, LV4-26.. You sound right in your explanation as quoted above............Initially I also held the same view what you are holding but was bit puzzled about it as went through various threads for the same subject. However, now I can say I'm clear about it too. :)
  38. Benton Member

    English UK
    "gotta, gonna, etc are all contractions to be avoided (even in spoken language). They sound acceptable because years of careless speech has made them too familiar; but foreign learners of English should be aware that they are a sign of poor mastery of the language. They appear to be entrenched in standard AE, however.

    Use "got to" in appropriate circumstances but use another verb wherever you can to replace this hackneyed expression.
    eg "I got to see the president" is better expressed as "I was able (or I managed) to see the president".

    "have got to ..." is better expressed by "must..." ("I have to..." is acceptable).
    eg "I have got to write this report" is better expressed by "I must (or have to) write this report"
    or, to express inner compulsion: "I just have to write this report".

    "I have got.." is, admittedly, gradually being assimilated into the language; but "got" adds nothing to the meaning: "I have.. " is enough.

    Speakers should always seek clarity in speech because shorter expressions are more persuasive. Longer expressions can be elegant; but not when combined with "got".
  39. mplsray Senior Member

    "Have got" really should not be thought of as "got" added to the verb "have" meaning "possess," which is what you imply above. Think about it: The verb "have" in "have got" is an auxiliary verb, while the verb "have" meaning "possess" does not have any auxiliary function. They are not the same sort of verb and are in no way substituting for each other.

    Rather, "have got" and "have" in the meaning of "possess" are synonyms, similar to the terms "hoagie" and "submarine sandwich."

    However, even synonyms have differences. The Webster Dictionary of English Usage by Merriam Webster, Inc., in its article "have got," has the following advice for the use of "have got" and "have":

    Note that the point of view of that usage guide is that speech occurs in both standard and nonstandard varieties. If they considered "have got" to be nonstandard, this would be the place to mention it, but they don't, because it is indeed standard speech.

    Note that a parallel argument applies to "have got to" and "have to" meaning "am obligated to," "must." "Have got to" is discussed in a subentry of the above-referenced article, and is also treated as standard.
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2009
  40. Benton Member

    English UK
    Thank you, mplsray, for contributing to this debate in a calm and lucid manner. Criticism of "have got" often attracts a more vehement response.
    You quote from Webster, an AE dictionary, which confirms my belief that the expression is entrenched and, indeed, recommended in AE. (I have never heard the expessions "hoagie" and "submarine sandwich", however).
    Much ink is expended on a probably futile attempt to expunge "got" from "have got". Even in BE, the purists are fighting a losing battle on this.
    Nonetheless, whilst appreciating the AE acceptance, I continue to challenge, on behalf of the BE purists, whatever justification is raised for using two words where one will suffice. "have got" adds no greater meaning to "have" and gains no elegance of expression in using a compound.
  41. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Moderator note:

    While this forum takes note of and tries to understand regional differences in English usage, we do not take sides and we do not prefer one over the others.

    This thread is about "have got". Please limit discussion to the specific point at hand.

    Thank you.

  42. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    Just a few descriptive remarks

    [note1 : :tick: means used and :cross: means unused -- not right and wrong --
    note2 : stressed (if only moderately) syllables are bolded, except when not relevant to the point ]

    1. I have to go :tick:
    2. I've got to go :tick:
    3. I've to go :cross:
    4. I have got to go :cross: (sounds silly without the contraction).
    5. I really have to go :tick:
    6. I have really got to go or 7. I really have got to go. :cross:

    (almost?)All the speakers who use #2, also use #5.

    Please tell me if you differ.

    I'm not sure where that leads me or what point I'm trying to make but I'm convinced there's something there.
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2009
  43. mplsray Senior Member

    Google and Google Books turn up quite a few examples of "you have got to go" and "you have got to be kidding"/"you have got to be kiddin'" and "you have really got to be kidding"/"you really have got to be kidding". Some of the "you have got to go" may possibly be due to transcriptionists making a change in "you've got to go" (there are court cases and legislative discussions among the hits), but other examples of that string of words appear to be from serious edited writing.

    When the results turn up an emphasis on got, as in "you have GOT to go" and "you have GOT to be kidding" and "you have really GOT to be kidding", I am convinced that this is something the writer would have said in speech (specifically, the sort of thing I spoke of in a previous thread where I said that "gotta" has a meaning distinguished from "got to").

    No, scratch that last parenthetical comment. "have GOT to" and "gotta"/"'ve gotta"/"have gotta" have the same meaning, "must," but have different pronunciations.
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2009
  44. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    {Re post 42} I differ a bit, J-M:)

    EDIT: on reflection, I think 6 is more likely as "I've really got to go".

    This stuff is hard!:eek:
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2009
  45. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    Thanks for your respective inputs, mplsray and Loob.

    I think if you substitute less frequent for unused, I may be closer to the truth.

    I also believe (none of you really commented on this) that a substantial number of speakers (including myself, but I'm not a native so I'm not sure it counts) who normally use "I've got to go", will prefer "I really have to go" to either 6 or 7.

    I don't know. I feel there's something in the 3 phonems in "got" (maybe the "percussive" consonants 'g' and 't' and probably more so when the 't' is glottalized) that makes it more sort of effective than "have", when emphasized.
    But the length of the sentence may also play a role.
  46. Pedro y La Torre

    Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    In Ireland you will often hear this construction in spoken language.
  47. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    Thanks, Pedro. Yes, that confirms what Loob suggested in her post.
    Well, it really seems that you people do differ. :)
  48. Imber Ranae Senior Member

    English - USA
    Since this thread was closed, I'd like to respond to a post made there that concerns the topic of this thread.

    Yes, I agree that in most places it's perfectly natural spoken English. But are you saying the construction "have got to" would get past a (competent) copy editor for a major daily in the UK (other than for reporting direct speech, I mean)?
  49. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    If "I have got to ...." is considered acceptable, could somebody please say how they would phrase the past tense?

    I had got to go to the dentist?
    I had gotten to go to the dentist?

    Does this make sense to anyone?
  50. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I don't think panj was saying that at all, Imber. Instead, I believe he was suggesting that in some parts of the world (including his, as I understand it) "have got to" is not good natural English:)

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