Tener que... vs. Deber vs. Hay que...

Discussion in 'Spanish-English Vocabulary / Vocabulario Español-Inglés' started by I Am Herenow, Apr 14, 2007.

  1. I Am Herenow Senior Member


    What are the differences between the three phrases in the title (and the same for all person endings, if "Tengo que..." is more colloquial than "Tenemos que..." or whatever)? Also, are there any other phrases that mean "I must/have to" etc. that I have not mentioned, and if so, where would they fit in?

    ¡Muchas gracias!
  2. doncitoguili New Member

    US, English
    Tener que~="Have to" ex: "I have to go to the store, I need to buy eggs" (Tengo que ir al mercado, necesito comprar huevos)

    Deber~="Must/should" ex: "I should go to the store now, it's going to close soon" (Debo ir ahora al mercado, muy pronto se cierra)

    Hay que~="One has to/must, someone has to/must, it..." ex: "Someone has to wash the car, it's dirty" (Hay que lavar la coche, está muy sucio)

    There are some other little differences that change meaning, but, not being a native Spanish speaker, I can only try to reproduce them but I don't have a clue how to explain them
  3. mar.de.dudas Senior Member

    Spain; Spanish
    Tengo que is more colloquial than tenemos que; that's because of the use of the plural (it has a name, plural de cortesía ¿?¿?); in papers or academic works, it is usual to use sentences such as "a continuación, analizaremos el contexto..." although the paper is just written by one person.
  4. Filis Cañí Banned

    The hills
    Triana, caló
    Tienes que comer. You must eat. (Always with que.)
    Debes comer. You must eat. (Same thing, but not followed by any prepositions.) (Deber de means something else.)
    Hay que comer. One should eat. (Always with que.)
  5. zjordi Member

    Spain (Spanish)
    Hi, folks.

    In fact the three forms relate to the same, the only difference lies in the degree of command and/or urgency they imply. Let's see:

    - 'Hay que' is a mere statement of something that should be done, but the one speaking clearly doesn't want to do it by himself, and is voicing the need to see if some other takes the initiative to do it.
    - 'Tener que' is something that has to be done but, depending on need, it could be done today, tomorrow or next week (if you're out of eggs and you want an omelette for dinner, you'll end up going today)
    - 'Deber' implies something that IMPERATIVELY HAS to be done (usually quick), or something bad will happen (if today is the tax return deadline and you're halfway through calculating it, you're in deep trouble).

    Hope this helps.
  6. I Am Herenow Senior Member

    Thanks a lot :D
  7. Sylphadora

    Sylphadora Senior Member

    Madrid, Spain
    Spanish, Spain
    There seem to be some kind of confusion with tener que and deber. I've also read that it's the other way round, that with tener que, it means that you have to do something that way you like it or not because there are external factors compelling you to do that thing (ie, you would say tengo que entrar a trabajar a las 9 because if you don't, you would get fired), while with deber there is no requirement that makes the action compulsory for you, but you feel like it's your moral responsability, even though there will not be any harmful consequences if you do not do what you say.
  8. Lavernock Senior Member

    wales English
    Yo tengo que ... me imponen la obligación y tengo que cumplir.
    Yo debo ... me impongo la obligación a mi misma creo que debo...
    Hay que ... es necesario y sensato en general.

    En algunos paises los hombres tienen que hacer la mili. Obligación impuesta
    Estoy gordo, no debo comer más chocolate. Creo yo que no debo. No hay obligación impuesta.
    Hay que tratar bien a la gente. Algo que es sensato y correcto en general. Sentido común
  9. ducpiloti Member

    great, so I can say "¡Hay que comer esto!" --> someone must eat this!

    debes lavar tus ropas --> you must wash your clothes

    hay que pagarles --> someone must pay them
  10. gvergara

    gvergara Senior Member

    Santiago, Chile
    I'm afraid that's not quite correct. It's true that hay que is impersonal, but depending on the context it can also be used with the same meaning as tener que. For instance, if you have forgotten you have to pay your car installment, and your wife reminds you of this, ("No olvides que aún adeudamos la mensualidad") , you can use either:"Rayos, de veras que tengo que pagar/ hay que pagarle la cuota" It's clear from the context that the someone that has to pay the instalment is myself.

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