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A reader asks for clarification on these three common verbs. Editor Kory Stamper explains. The verbs needhave toand must are all synonyms of one another and are used to mean that something is necessary or required.
But they each have slightly different connotations and uses. Needwhen followed by to and a verb, is the narrowest of the three verbs. It is most often used to say that an action should be done:.
Must and have to are much broader. They can both be used to say that something is required or necessary:. Both words are also used to communicate a desire for something to happen, though have to is more commonly used this way in American English than must is:. And finally, both have to and must can be used in questions or statements to convey anger or irritation, though with slightly different constructions:.
There is, however, one more use of have to that is unique: if you have to do, finish, etc. Learner's Dictionary mobile search. Learner's Dictionary. Ask the Editor. Peter SokolowskiEditor at Large. It is most often used to say that an action should be done: I need to wash my dirty clothes. It is also used to say that it is very important and necessary for someone to do something: I need to call my mom and find out how my dad's surgery went.
They can both be used to say that something is required or necessary: We must go to the post office. They can both be used to say that something is required by law: You must file your taxes by April 15th. They can also both be used to say that something is very likely: It must be 90 degrees in here. Both have to and must can be used to add emphasis to a statement: I must know, where did you get your shoes?
Both words are also used to communicate a desire for something to happen, though have to is more commonly used this way in American English than must is: You must come visit us. Why must it rain on our wedding day? In all cases above, must is more formal than have to. I only have to read six more s and then I'm done with the book. As always, if you are not sure which verb to use, consult our Learner's Dictionary. Vocabulary Quiz. Take the Quiz ».
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Definition of 'need'