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Have To vs. Has To: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on November 27, 2023
"Have to" and "has to" both express obligation or necessity. "Have to" is used with I, you, we, they, while "has to" is used with he, she, it.

Key Differences

"Have to" and "has to" are both modal phrases indicating necessity or obligation. "Have to" is the form used with plural subjects (we, you, they) and singular subjects I and you. "Has to" is specifically used with third-person singular subjects (he, she, it). Their usage depends on the subject of the sentence.
In terms of grammatical structure, "have to" and "has to" are followed by a base form of a verb. They do not change form according to tense; rather, the auxiliary verb "have" or "has" is modified to indicate different tenses. For example, "I have to go" in the present becomes "I had to go" in the past.
The phrases "have to" and "has to" imply compulsion or obligation that comes from an external source. While "have to" is used in a more general context, "has to" is specifically for singular subjects. For example, "They have to study" versus "He has to study."
In questions and negatives, "have to" and "has to" are used with auxiliary verbs. For instance, "Do I have to?" or "She doesn't have to." This contrasts with modal verbs like "must," showcasing a key aspect of their usage.
Both "have to" and "has to" can be used in various tenses by changing the form of "have/has." Their meaning remains centered around necessity or obligation regardless of the tense. For example, "They will have to leave" (future tense) versus "She has to leave" (present tense).

Comparison Chart

Subject Agreement

Used with I, you, we, they
Used with he, she, it


"We have to go now."
"She has to go now."

Tense Variation

"I had to go" (past)
"She had to go" (past)

Negative Form

"I don't have to go"
"He doesn't have to go"

Interrogative Form

"Do they have to attend?"
"Does he have to attend?"

Have To and Has To Definitions

Have To

Refers to a responsibility or obligation.
I have to take care of my pet.

Has To

Indicates a singular subject must do something.
It has to be done by tonight.

Have To

Indicates something is mandatory.
You have to wear a helmet while riding.

Has To

Responsibility of a singular subject.
She has to take care of her garden.

Have To

Denotes something essential.
They have to eat to survive.

Has To

Suggests compulsion for a singular subject.
He has to obey the law.

Have To

Suggests being compelled by external factors.
We have to follow the rules.

Has To

Essential action for a singular subject.
He has to eat to maintain his health.

Have To

Implies a requirement or necessity.
I have to finish this task today.

Has To

Necessity for a singular subject.
She has to complete her homework.


Is 'has to' only for obligations?

Primarily, yes. It's used to indicate necessity or compulsion, typically from an external source.

Can 'have to' and 'has to' be used interchangeably?

No, they cannot. "Have to" is used with plural subjects and I/you, while "has to" is used with third-person singular subjects.

Can 'have to' be used for singular subjects?

Yes, with the singular subjects I and you.

How do you form a question with 'have to' and 'has to'?

Use auxiliary verbs, like "Do you have to?" or "Does she have to?"

Can 'have to' and 'has to' imply personal desire?

No, they imply external obligation or necessity, not personal desire.

Can you use modal verbs like 'must' instead of 'have to' or 'has to'?

Yes, but 'must' often implies a stronger sense of personal determination.

Are 'have to' and 'has to' used in different tenses?

Both can be used in different tenses, but their form changes, like "had to" for the past tense.

How do 'have to' and 'has to' differ from 'should'?

'Should' implies a recommendation, while 'have to' and 'has to' imply obligation.

How does the negative form of 'have to' and 'has to' work?

Use "don't have to" or "doesn't have to" for negatives.

How do 'have to' and 'has to' differ from 'need to'?

'Need to' often implies a personal necessity, while 'have to' and 'has to' imply external obligation.

Are 'have to' and 'has to' formal expressions?

They are neutral and can be used in both formal and informal contexts.

Can 'have to' be used for past obligations?

Yes, in the form of 'had to.'

Are there any exceptions in the use of 'have to' and 'has to'?

Generally, their use is straightforward, following the rules of subject-verb agreement.

Is 'have to' used differently in British and American English?

Usage is generally the same in both dialects.

Can 'have to' and 'has to' be used in continuous tenses?

They are not commonly used in continuous tenses.

Is it possible to use 'have to' and 'has to' in subjunctive moods?

They are not typically used in subjunctive constructions.

How do 'have to' and 'has to' compare to 'ought to'?

'Ought to' often conveys a moral or ethical recommendation, while 'have to' and 'has to' convey obligation.

Can 'have to' and 'has to' be used for future obligations?

Yes, with the help of auxiliary verbs, like "will have to."

Are 'have to' and 'has to' used in passive voice?

They are typically used in active voice.

Is there a difference in meaning between 'have got to' and 'have to'?

They are similar in meaning but 'have got to' is more informal.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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