must / have to stop smoking [BrE]

Monica238

Member
Russian
If something is important to me I use "must", if I use "have to" it means someone else thinks it's important, but if I am not talking about myself which modal verb is used in BrE "must", "have to", or "should"?

"I think she has to/must/should stop smoking."


This is the explanation I got used to: "With must the obligation comes from the speaker. To talk about an obligation that comes from "outside" we usually prefer have to."

1. "I must stop smoking." I want to.

2. "I have to stop smoking." Doctor's orders.

At the same time the book says "Have to can also be used to talk about obligation coming from the speaker or the hearer, in the same way as must. This is normal in American English which uses must less often in this sense and is becoming very common in British English."

1. "I really have to stop smoking." (Or I must)

2. "Do I have to clean all the rooms?" (Or must I?)

But who is "the hearer"?
It's from Michael Swan's "Practical English Usage"
 
  • dojibear

    Senior Member
    US English
    This is normal in American English which uses "must" less often in this sense
    To an American, "must" and "have to" have the same meaning and the same uses.


    But who is "the hearer"?
    If one person is "the speaker" anyone who hears them is "the hearer" or "the listener". Both mean the same.
    At the same time the book says "Have to can also be used to talk about obligation coming from the speaker or the hearer, in the same way as must.
    If the book omits quotation marks around "have to" and "must", it is a very bad book. In English, those words must be marked as being separate from the rest of the sentence. A book might use boldface (have to) instead of quotation marks, but the words must be separate.
     

    abluter

    Senior Member
    British English
    If stopping smoking is a matter of life or death, (as it often is), it would be in order to say "She must stop smoking, (if she wants to see her next birthday etc.)

    In matters of legal compulsion or requirement, one is commonly told "You must report to the police station every day at noon etc".

    And here is Kent's last speech, right at the end of King Lear (Shakespeare):

    I have a journey, sir, shortly to go,
    My master calls me; I must not say no.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I agree with all the above comments. If you’re expressing an opinion about someone else’s behaviour, you’re likely to say you think they should or ought to either stop or change that behaviour. But you might well use must instead if you mean it as an instruction to that person, or if you’re stating a known or established need for them to do it. However, I don’t think there’s much difference between must and have to except that must tends to be more formal and/or emphatic.
     

    Monica238

    Member
    Russian
    Thank you all so much for answering my question. I am sorry for the long post.Do you mean there is no difference in meaning but in style? The difference between them is really confusing. Regarding the difference between "must" and "have to" which is mentioned in the book "You must be careful" is a speaker's personal opinion, while "You have to be careful" an outside opinion or rule. Is this again the difference in style not in meaning? With the first person singular there is little difference sometimes between "I have to go" and "I must go" as Michael Vince says. But according to the book there is a difference between them when "have to" and "must" are used with "you". It's mentioned in the pre-intermediate level of the book, but in advanced level it says both are possible. Does the author of the book mean that there is no difference between them in meaning when he says that both are possible? When he explains that "You must" means it's the speaker's personal opinion, but "You have to" is an outside rule, does Michael Vince mean that the meaning is still the same?


    Advanced level
    "In most contexts *must* or *have to* are both possible. Some speakers may use *have to* because it is longer and allows more emphasis." (He doesn't say anymore that "must" expresses a personal opinion, while "have to" is an outside rule.)

    1. "You have to be more careful."

    2. "Everyone has to recycle as much as possible."

    Pre-intermediate level

    "There is sometimes little difference between first person *I must* and *I have to*."

    1. "Sorry, I really have to go now."

    2. "Sorry, I really must go now."

    In other contexts there is a difference.

    1. "You must be more careful." Personal opinion of the speaker.

    2. "We have to wear safety goggles." An outside opinion or rule.


    Then either can be used in these examples too and if I don't misunderstand the only difference between them is that "You must keep this door locked" is the speaker's opinion, but "You have to keep this door locked" is an outside rule.

    "You must be more careful" and "You must return the books on time" (said by a librarian it's her opinion) and "You have to be more careful" and "You have to return the books on time" -an outside rule. The same with "Visitors must report to reception on arrival" "must" is used because it's the person's opinion. But "have to" can also be used if it's not the speaker's opinion, but if it's because of someone else or it is a law/rule.
     
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    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I have to admit, it’s a difficult question to answer. :tick: / I must admit, it’s a difficult question to answer. :tick:

    It’s pointless trying to pin this usage down to universal dos and don’ts. That’s simply not how it works. It’s usually a matter of emphasis and always a matter of context.

    Everyone has to recycle as much as possible.
    (A simple statement of either opinion or fact, depending on the context – which we don’t know.)

    Everyone must recycle as much as possible.
    (Out of context, this comes across as a firm personal opinion, implying that everyone should/ought to do that.)

    We have to wear safety goggles.
    (Out of context, this comes across as a statement explaining that we’re obliged to do this, because it’s a rule.
     

    Monica238

    Member
    Russian
    I have to admit, it’s a difficult question to answer. :tick: / I must admit, it’s a difficult question to answer. :tick:

    It’s pointless trying to pin this usage down to universal dos and don’ts. That’s simply not how it works. It’s usually a matter of emphasis and always a matter of context.

    Everyone has to recycle as much as possible.
    (A simple statement of either opinion or fact, depending on the context – which we don’t know.)

    Everyone must recycle as much as possible.
    (Out of context, this comes across as a firm personal opinion, implying that everyone should/ought to do that.)

    We have to wear safety goggles.
    (Out of context, this comes across as a statement explaining that we’re obliged to do this, because it’s a rule.
    But the meaning is the same, isn't it? Native speakers may not always use them as Michael Vince suggests "must" for a personal opinion and "have to" for an outside rule or because of someone else.

    In your explanation
    "Everyone has to recycle as much as possible." You showed that "have to" is not only limited to rules but it is also used to talk about opinions which isn't mentioned in my book. If I understand you correctly and under "fact" you mean "a rule" which is a fact.

    (A simple statement of either opinion or fact, depending on the context – which we don’t know.)
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    But the meaning is the same, isn't it?
    :confused: The verbs have to/must/should/ought to do all have a very similar basic meaning, if that’s what you’re asking.

    Which is precisely why it’s so difficult to explain why one may be more idiomatic than another in a specific context. I can’t give you the rules that you have to/must/should/ought to follow in terms of using them, because no such rules exist. There are, however, many nuances, which are probably too subtle to categorise.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    And here is Kent's last speech, right at the end of King Lear (Shakespeare):

    I have a journey, sir, shortly to go,
    My master calls me; I must not say no.
    But there's not much choice when it comes to the negative, since (in present-day English) must not and don't have to have quite different meanings.

    When your boss orders you to do something, you mustn't say no. You must/You have to do what they tell you to do.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Interesting. I hadn’t thought of that. But there is indeed a clear difference between those negative statements that doesn’t apply to their positive counterparts.

    You mustn’t do that (it’s not allowed) / You don’t have to do that (it’s not obligatory)

    You must do that / You have to do that (it’s obligatory, inevitable, or whatever)
     
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