Themes > Legal English >MUST or HAVE TO?

What's wrong?

Please correct the following sentences:

1. "Do you must leave so soon?"
2. A. "Must everyone here start work at 8 o'clock?"
B. "No they mustn't. We have a flexi-time system."

What's the rule?


Must and have to both express obligation and so are often used in the same way, but there is a slight difference in meaning.


Example: My car's dirty. I must clean it.

Must is used for personal obligation:
I must clean it (I think it is necessary to clean it).

Have /has to

Example: She has to type correspondence for both managers.

Has/Have to is more impersonal:
She has to type (this is one of the obligations of her work contract).



Example: Must you leave so soon?

Do/Does ... have to ... ?

Example: Do you have to go?

Must ... ? and do/does ... have to ... ? can be used in the same way, but do/does ... have to ... ? is more common than must ... ?



Example: They mustn't smoke at work. It's forbidden.

Mustn't expresses prohibition.

Don't/doesn't have to

Example: They don't have to wear a tie at work.

Don't/doesn't have to means that there is no obligation (They can wear a tie if they like, of course!).

Test it out!

Use the correct form of must or have to - in the positive or negative form as appropriate - to fill in the gaps in these sentences.

1. Everyone pay their tax by the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) scheme.
2. She carry such heavy books. She has a very bad back problem.
3. We give a presentation to the Board this afternoon.
4. (you) write the reports yourself?
5. He speak German with our clients in Hamburg. They all speak excellent English.
6. I meet my boss every Monday morning to discuss the sales figures.
7. You leave your car there. That's the Managing Director's parking bay.
8. I send my mother some flowers. It's her birthday tomorrow.
9. How often (he) take the car in for a service?

© Linguarama International, Alton UK, 1992 - 2000. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photographic, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of Linguarama International.

You may download any issue of POSTSCRIPT for personal (non-commercial) use and may distribute it to friends and work colleagues provided that the above conditions are extended to all users and that no commercial use is made of the material.