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  1. #1
    Nightmare85's Avatar
    Nightmare85 is offline Senior Member
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    have to vs. must

    Hello guys,
    On a TV show a girl says:
    I have to go to the toilet.

    Why doesn't she say:
    I must go to the toilet.

    No one tells her what to do, so it's her own decision.
    I have the feeling they use "have to" because if she wants or not, she simply has to go in order not to wet oneself
    "The nature" makes her go, so there is some influence.

    What do you think?

    Cheers!

  2. #2
    crazYgeeK is offline Member
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    Re: have to vs. must

    I think it's so funny when saying "I must go to the toilet". It means I really have no reason to do that normally as people do in the toilet.
    In other words, when you say "I have to go to the toilet", you have no other choices to do at that time and you don't really like that. But when you say "I must go to the toilet", you mean you want to do that anyway, that means you may not go to the toilet for something normally, you would do something else.
    Thank you !
    Last edited by crazYgeeK; 26-Jun-2010 at 04:41.

  3. #3
    Raymott's Avatar
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    Re: have to vs. must

    Quote Originally Posted by Nightmare85 View Post
    Hello guys,
    On a TV show a girl says:
    I have to go to the toilet.

    Why doesn't she say:
    I must go to the toilet.

    No one tells her what to do, so it's her own decision.
    I have the feeling they use "have to" because if she wants or not, she simply has to go in order not to wet oneself
    "The nature" makes her go, so there is some influence.

    What do you think?

    Cheers!
    I think you've picked up the wrong idea that "have to" and "must" have different meanings related to whether the action is volitional or not.
    In broad terms, if you "must" do something, you "have to" do it, and vice versa.
    Have you heard differently?

  4. #4
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    Re: have to vs. must

    Raymott does not seem understand the subtle differences between "have to" and "must," especially from a linguistic standpoint. It is true that the meanings of these two words are interchangeable; however, their respective meanings largely depend on situational context made throughout history. The modal "have to" also carries with it the connotation of needing to do something while "must" is the formal representation of obligation. There are many variations associated with have to. As such, it is evident that the inherent meanings of "have to" and "must" are still in a state of linguistic flux. To put it simply, there is a notable difference between their "volitional" capacities.

  5. #5
    emsr2d2's Avatar
    emsr2d2 is offline Moderator
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    Re: have to vs. must

    Linguistics aside, though, it is certainly the case that in spoken English, you will hear them used pretty much interchangeably.

    I have to go to the supermarket today. I've run out of food.

    I really must go to the supermarket today. I've run out of food.

    Do you see a difference there? I don't. It's important that I go to the supermarket because I've run out of food. No-one is making me go, there's no obligation, yet I would not differentiate between the two statements above. It's entirely volitional. It would be silly if I didn't go, as I would then have no food! It's not actually imperative, yet I would use both forms above with equal regularity, I think.

  6. #6
    philo2009 is offline Key Member
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    Re: have to vs. must

    Quote Originally Posted by Nightmare85 View Post
    Hello guys,
    On a TV show a girl says:
    I have to go to the toilet.

    Why doesn't she say:
    I must go to the toilet.

    No one tells her what to do, so it's her own decision.
    I have the feeling they use "have to" because if she wants or not, she simply has to go in order not to wet oneself
    "The nature" makes her go, so there is some influence.

    What do you think?

    Cheers!
    Although either is, of course, grammatical, the first is the more plausible, since the necessity to visit the smallest room is imposed, as you say, by nature.

    "I must V" tends to amount to little more than a reminder to oneself to perform some action that might otherwise be forgotten (I must stop at the supermarket on the way home tonight, etc.) - hardly likely in the case of a call of nature!
    Last edited by philo2009; 26-Jun-2010 at 12:29.

  7. #7
    Mehrgan's Avatar
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    Re: have to vs. must

    Thanks to posters. I remember that once I came up with this explanation that "have to", if there's any difference between the two terms, is used when there's an obligation from outside, while "must" means that the person himself feels it's necessary for him to do Sth. For example, in army, you have to polish your boots. And when a friend of yours is in hospital, then you believe that you must go and visit them. I hope someone will make this clear. Thanks.

  8. #8
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    Re: have to vs. must

    "Must" is also more narrowly used in American English than in British English. I almost never use "must" in speech or casual writing, and the thought of someone saying, "I must go to the bathroom!" made me giggle. I tend to save it for writing syllabi for classes and similar applications.

  9. #9
    Raymott's Avatar
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    Re: have to vs. must

    Quote Originally Posted by Mehrgan View Post
    Thanks to posters. I remember that once I came up with this explanation that "have to", if there's any difference between the two terms, is used when there's an obligation from outside, while "must" means that the person himself feels it's necessary for him to do Sth. For example, in army, you have to polish your boots. And when a friend of yours is in hospital, then you believe that you must go and visit them. I hope someone will make this clear. Thanks.
    While there is a difference in usage, it's more subtle than that.
    For example, if I decide I must/should study tonight because I haven't done any for a while, I can still say, "Sorry I can't go out tonight. I have to study" - even though this is self-imposed.
    If it's imposed by my having an exam tomorrow, I can still say, "I must study tonight".

    Note that this is only using "must/have to" with 'I'. It becomes even more complicated with other persons, 'you, he' etc.
    "You must do something" pretty much means "You have to do something", though there are differences in usage depending on the exact meaning, the context, who is saying it to whom ....

    I can understand you wanting a definitive answer, but I'm afraid there is none. If there were, there wouldn't be so many loose guidelines such as those that you and Nightmare are taking for strict "rules".

  10. #10
    euncu's Avatar
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    Re: have to vs. must

    Quote Originally Posted by Mehrgan View Post
    Thanks to posters. I remember that once I came up with this explanation that "have to", if there's any difference between the two terms, is used when there's an obligation from outside, while "must" means that the person himself feels it's necessary for him to do Sth. For example, in army, you have to polish your boots. And when a friend of yours is in hospital, then you believe that you must go and visit them. I hope someone will make this clear. Thanks.
    I believe that most of the non-native-speakers learn (or are taught) the difference as Mehrgan put it. But since I've been a member of this forums,
    I've been seeing that what we the non-native speakers know as rules are (not always but in some cases) not as valid as we think.(or they've seemed to me that way)

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