Have To vs. Get To

'Have to' and 'get to' are used to talk about obligations and opportunities respectively. In this lesson, we will learn all about them.

"Have To" vs. "Get To" in the English grammar

What Is Their Main Difference?

The main difference between 'have to' and 'get to' is that 'have to' expresses obligations while 'get to' expresses opportunities.

Have to

'Have to' is a semi-modal verb that functions similarly to modal verbs. It can act as modals and main verbs. It is used to express obligations, certainty, etc. Have a look:

I have to study for my exams.

He has to take responsibility.

Get to

'Get to' can be used as a phrasal verb or an auxiliary verb depending on the context. If it is expressing beginnings and opportunities, it is used as an auxiliary verb. If it is asking about whereabouts, it is used as a phrasal verb. For example:

I get to use the exclusive offers.

Here, we are talking about opportunities therefore 'get to' is an auxiliary verb.

Where have my phone got to?

Here, it is asking about the whereabouts of something so it is a phrasal verb.

Uses

Talking about Obligations

We use 'have to' to talk about what needs to be done. Obligations are motivated by law, someone, or oneself. Take a look at the following examples:

As stated by law, you have to drive carefully.

We can't come because we have to take care of our younger sister.

Talking about Opportunities

'Get to' is used to talk about opportunities. Opportunities are situations or occasions that if successful will have a positive outcome. For instance:

I get to have lunch with a possible employer.

She got to choose her work hours.

With Tenses

Both 'have to' and 'get to' can refer to the past, present, and future.

Have to Get to
Past He had to defend himself. He got to defend himself.
Present He has to defend himself. He gets to defend himself.
Future He will have to defend himself. He will get to defend himself.

Structure

Affirmative Form

In affirmative form, we place 'have to' and 'get to' before the main verb. Watch:

I have to figure out who the murderer was.

I get to discover new places.

Negative Form

To create the negative form of 'have to' and 'get to' we follow the pattern illustrated below:

  • do/did/does + not + have/get to

I don't have to meet him.

I didn't get to meet him.

Interrogative Form

To create questions with 'have to' and 'get to,' we use the pattern shown below:

  • Do/Did/Does + subject + have/get to + main verb + …?

Did you have to meet him?

Did you get to meet him?

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