‘Must’ or ‘Have To’?

01 March 2024

Hello! This week on Ask a Teacher, we answer a question from Mequanent Antigegn.


"Must vs have to"--I find it difficult to differentiate them.

'Must' or 'Have To'
'Must' or 'Have To'

You must wear your uniform in the classroom. Or You have to wear your uniform in the classroom.

Which one is correct?


Thank you for this question. "Must" and "have to" can have the same meaning. We have talked about "must" and "have to" in an earlier Ask a Teacher.

Both of the sentences you provide are correct. Sometimes it is better to choose "must" over "have to" or "have to" over "must."


When we use must in spoken English, usually it is to express something we think is likely. In that case, it is similar in meaning to the word "probably."

You must be cold after working all day in the rain.

You are probably cold after working all day in the rain.

My supervisor must not care about the budget cuts.

My supervisor probably doesn't care about the budget cuts.

But, we also use it as we use "have to," although more commonly in writing.

Climate change must be stopped.

You must see the doctor before Friday.

Have to

"Have to," "have got to" and its reduced form "gotta," are used very often in spoken language to communicate requirement.

I have to get up at 5am tomorrow.

You gotta relax.

So, which sentence should you use? It depends on the context. Are you wanting to express a probability? Or are you trying to give an order or announce a rule?

And now we must say goodbye! We have to check the mail for new questions about American English! If you have one, send us an email at learningenglish@voanews.com.

And that's Ask a Teacher.

I'm Gena Bennett.

Caty Weaver wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

uniformn. a special set of clothes someone has to wear to work or school