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  1. Senior Member
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    • Join Date: Oct 2010
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    "must" in BrE and AmE


    I've heard Americans hardly ever use 'must', preferring 'be supposed to', 'should' and other similar expresions. The usage of 'must" has become especially rare when it comes to talking to others. Does the same hold true for BrE? Coursebooks and grammars I work with (they're British) have lots of exercises and tasks where students are supposed to use this modal verb; there are quite a few sentences with 'you must..." there as well.
    Has must really become 'extinct' (in its first, 'obligation' meaning)?

    I'd appreciate it if somebody could shed some light on this.
    Thank you.
    Last edited by Verona_82; 06-Oct-2011 at 11:52.

  2. Ouisch's Avatar
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    English Teacher
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    Re: "must" in BrE and AmE

    I don't think "must" is necessarily extinct, but British speakers do seem to use it more in casual conversation as a modal verb than American speakers.

    For example, BrE speakers often say "It's getting late, I must leave soon," while in AmE it's more common to say "It's getting late, I have to leave soon" or "I should leave soon".

    A BrE mother warns her child: "You mustn't wander off like that, you could get lost!"
    An AmE mother would say: "You shouldn't wander off like that, you could get lost!"

    Quite often if an AmE speaker says something like "You must try the veal, it's delicious!" the listener might respond in a mocking, pompous tone "Oh, must I?" because "must" sounds very formal and.....well, British in that situation. (It would be more common to say "You have got to try the veal" or "You really should try the veal".)
    Last edited by Ouisch; 19-Jul-2011 at 09:51.

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