The difference between MUST and HAVE TO

The difference between MUST and HAVE TO

In this complete tutorial for beginners’ learners are going to learn the difference between “must” vs “have to”, so we’re comparing “must” with “have to”.

Let’s look at these 2 example sentences:

I have to hand in reports every week.

I must buy some mangoes.

have to” and “must” both express obligations, but there’s a subtle difference. There is a small difference between the meaning of “have to” and “must” and it is a different type of obligation.

have to” expresses objective obligation and “must” expresses subjective obligation. So, What’s the difference? I’m going to explain each of this in more detail.

Let’s start with;

 “have to”- form and structure

Subject + have (in the correct form) + infinitive

Present simplePast simpleFuture simple
I have to workI had to workI will have to work
You have to workYou had to workYou will have to work
He / she has to workHe / she had to workHe / she will have to work
We have to workWe had to workWe will have to work
You have to workYou had to workYou will have to work
They have to workThey had to workThey will have to work

“have to”- meaning

have to” expresses objective obligation. The obligation is external. The obligation comes from someone or something else, and its often a law, a legal requirement or a rule or an instruction.


“I have to mop the floor. My mother wants me to”. (Mother says, its necessary)

In Thailand, you have to drive on the left.

You have to wear gloves when you clean the bathroom.

must” – form and structure

Subject +  “must” + base form of the verb

Imust help

Youmust help

He / she / must help

Wemust help

Youmust help

Theymust help

We use must to express present or future obligation.


I must help my mum with the housework.

Tim must repeat the exam tomorrow.

We do not use must in the past.


“must” expresses subjective obligation.

“must” expresses personal or internal obligation.

It’s an obligation imposed by the speaker.


We must be kind to others.

She must clean her room.

must not

Subject +  “must not” + base form of the verb

We use “must not” for something that is not allowed or permitted.

The meaning can be objective.


People must not pollute the water.

Or subjective:

I mustn’t be late for school.

This example is in contracted form, this is very common. This is a contracted form of “must not” so we replace an apostrophe for the letter that we omit which is letter “o”.

“I mustn’t be late for school”. So, again this is not a real obligation, it is an internal personal decision to change a habit, so this is obviously subjective. Nobody is instructing him that he mustn’t be late for school. It’s his personal decision. Alright?

So there we are I hope you understand now the difference between “have to” and “must” and use them correctly.

Downloadable Material

Here’s the downloadable material of Tutorial on MUST vs HAVE TO here.

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