MUST – HAVE TO / Obligation and Rules

MUST vs. HAVE TO – Understanding Obligation and Rules in English

In English, when discussing obligations and rules, we use “must” and “have to”. Remember, these verbs are followed by the base form of the main verb.

Usage and Pronunciation:

  • Must / mʌst / (mel-ee, mal-ee)
  • Have to / hæv tu / (hev to)


I must wear a tie in school.

I have to wear a suit in our company.

We live in a small town and we have to walk a long way to the city center.

Note: The verbs following “must” and “have to” are in their base forms.

While both “must” and “have to” convey obligation, “must” is often used in formal or written rules, while “have to” is more common in everyday spoken language. However, there are common situations where both can be used:

Common Usage Examples:

  • When giving orders or directing others:

We must fasten our seat belt in the car.

We have to fasten our seat belt in the car.

  • For important and necessary events:

I must get a new laptop.

I have to get a new laptop.

I have to do this task now.

  • When giving advice:

You must see that film.

Negative Forms:


When you go abroad, you mustn’t forget your passport.

You mustn’t talk without the teacher’s permission.

We mustn’t forget our seat belts while in the car.

Don’t have to

I don’t have to take my laptop for this trip.

She doesn’t have to get up early this morning.

“Don’t” and “doesn’t have to” are used for negative forms. In the past tense, “didn’t have to” is used for all subjects:

I didn’t have to come to the Saturday Course because it was canceled.

He didn’t have to come.

She didn’t have to come.

You didn’t have to come.

We didn’t have to come.

Remember: In the past tense, all subjects use “didn’t have to” without change.

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