Learn Fluent American English: Must vs Have to

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In these American English language tips, Gabby provides hints and suggestions on how to sound less stiff and more native-like. If you want to achieve success at American English fluency, you have to listen to as much American English as you can, whether it be music, radio, or television programs. You encounter verbs Must vs Have to. You should also take advantage of all the resources that Gabby makes available to you.


Make sure you visit old.gonaturalenglish.com and get a free eBook guide and don’t be afraid to join some of the many English language conversations that are going on. Almost everybody there has been nervous at one time or another about being embarrassed by their accents, vocabulary, or grammar. The Go Natural English community is there to support you and encourage you along the way to American English fluency.




Episode transcript below:


Hello there! How are you doing?

Welcome to Go Natural English.

In this video tip, we’re going to take a great question from Paolo.

Paolo asked, “What is the difference between Must vs Have to?

Paolo, I love this question because the confusion I think comes from traditional – I was going to say “bad.”

I don’t want to say “bad” – I don’t like passing judgment but you know what? Bad!

Bad traditional English lessons that are too focused on grammar and that don’t look at real, natural conversational use of English – at least American English.

Remember, I’m your American English teacher so I’m talking always about American English.

So, Must vs Have to according to the grammar books are very similar.

They mean the same thing, right?

Kind of like “Should – You should do something” – it’s a suggestion but more powerful, right?

So, here’s the catch.

What your grammar books don’t tell you is that we really only use “Must” when we’re talking about probability.

This is how we really use “Must” in conversation – in daily use.

You know how I know when someone hasn’t had enough exposure to real English is when they use “Must” to suggest something.

Like “You must go to bed at 8 PM because it is good to go to bed early.”

Okay, thanks.

It sounds really unnatural.

You could say in a better, more natural way “You should” or “You have to go to bed at 8 PM” right?

That’s really early

I don’t know why I said 8 PM.

Oh, another dead giveaway that you really haven’t had much exposure to natural English is if you say, “Ought to.”

“You ought to go to bed at 8 PM.”

Now, actually I should take that back because I think people might say that in other countries like maybe British English but like I said – disclaimer – I am teaching American English.

I am American.

I have very little exposure to British English so keep that in mind.

Okay, so “Must” is used for probability, not suggestions.

In real life, okay, I’m talking about real-life usage so, “You must have” so we always use – I shouldn’t say always but most of the time we use “Must” and “Have” together.

“Oh, you must have read the weather report; you brought your umbrella, so you know it’s going to rain.”

Wonderful, okay?

“Oh, you must have gone to bed at 8 PM last night because you’re looking so handsome today” – so, probability, right.

We use “Must have” to show probability which is not actually discussed that often in traditional English classes.

It makes me so mad because that’s how we actually use it.

So, remember – Must vs Have to probability and suggestions, and that is the true difference in real American English conversation.

If you like learning about real, natural, native English – American English – then come over to gonaturalenglish.com/ebook where I’d like to give you a free eBook guide to help your fluency in English and I would love to invite you to join the premium Go Natural English course.

Find out all about it at gonaturalenglish.com/ebook.

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Thanks so much for watching and I’ll talk to you again real soon.

Bye for now.

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