The Difference: Have got / Have got to / Got to

1) Have got = Have

These sentences are the same in meaning:

  • I have a job.
  • I have got a job.
  • I’ve got a job. (Contraction)

Note that in negative sentences with have, it’s considered old-fashioned to use haven’t. Instead, we use do. 

  • I haven’t a job. (Old-fashioned)
  • I don’t have a job.

In negative sentences in the present with have got, change the modal verb have to haven’t got 

  • I haven’t got a job.

You cannot use have got in past or future tenses. Instead, use have.

  • I had got a problem = I had a problem.
  • I will have got a car tomorrow = She will have a car tomorrow.

Summary: Have vs. Have got

The phrases are similar in meaning but have got can only be used in the present tense.

2) Have got to = Have to

These sentences are the same in meaning:

    • I have to do my homework.
    • I have got to do my homework.
    • I’ve got to do my homework. (Contraction)

Similar to the grammar rules for have got, you cannot use have got to in past or future tenses.

  • I had got to study all last night. = I had to study all last night.
  • I will have got to meet her at the airport. = I will have to meet her at the airport.

There’s one more difference. We don’t use have got to for repeated obligations, especially with adverbs like ‘sometimes/usually/always/never’. In other words, if it’s something you have to (must) do every day, use have to and not have got to.

  • I always have to wash the dishes after dinner.
  • I always have got to wash the dishes after dinner.

Summary: Have to vs. Have got to

They are the same in meaning, but you cannot use have got to in with past or future tenses, or for repeated obligations in the present.

3) ‘Have got’ can be the Present Perfect Tense

Traditionally, the past participle of the verb get is gotten. However, nowadays, many people use got (get/got/got) as a past participle, and this is acceptable. Therefore, have got can mean have gotten, as in these sentences:

  • I have got a lot of homework this week. (Present Perfect with ‘got’ as Past Participle)
  • I have gotten a lot of homework this week. (Present Perfect with ‘gotten’ as Past Participle)

4) Meanings of ‘I Got to’

A) To have an opportunity

We use got to (without have) to say that we had an opportunity to do something. For example:

  • The children got to stay up late and watch a movie. (Their parents let them; they gave them this opportunity)
  • George was sick, so he got to go home early. (His boss gave him this opportunity)
  • It was the first time the citizens got to elect their own president. (The first time they had the opportunity)

Got to, used in this sense, is informal English, but it is still grammatically correct and can be used in informal writing.

B) I gotta = I’ve got to

In spoken English, people say I gotta go meaning I’ve gotta go. Technically, this is not grammatically correct because it does not have the auxiliary verb have. However, it is common in spoken English.

Summary of ‘I got to’

I got to / I gotta can be used in two ways:

  • She got to have an extra piece of cake. (Meaning: She was given the opportunity; Informal English but grammatically correct)
  • I gotta go to the bathroom. (Meaning: I have to go; Informal English, grammatically wrong)

I hope this has been helpful. Do you have any questions about the differences between have, have got, have to, have got to, and got to? Leave a comment below.

– Matthew Barton / Creator of Englishcurrent.com

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6 comments on “The Difference: Have got / Have got to / Got to

  1. Harry ascencio (Posted on 2-4-2018 at 04:39) Reply

    Too helpful Matthew Barton… i am learning and i like this page.

  2. edilson (Posted on 5-13-2020 at 14:20) Reply

    These explanations are awesome

  3. Gemechis Kifilu (Posted on 2-27-2021 at 04:54) Reply

    I have seen in one book the negative forms of must and have to is don’t have to and don’t have got to. Is it right?

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 2-27-2021 at 14:02) Reply

      Hello. The negative form of must = ‘must not’, have to = ‘don’t have to, have got to = ‘haven’t got to’. It’s not that common to hear ‘have got to’ in the negative form, so you might hear people use ‘don’t have to’ instead because it sounds more natural. e.g. ‘We haven’t got to hurry’ (a little awkward sounding in my opinion) => ‘ We don’t have to hurry’

  4. Cynthia D. Moss (Posted on 8-29-2021 at 09:16) Reply

    In high school I excelled in spelling and grammar. It was easy for me to comprehend proper structure of sentences and I was always confident when speaking in certain company but since I’ve gotten older I’ve heard numerous supposed professionals on television using the word “bring” for the word “take” and it always sounds backwards of what they are saying to me. Maybe I’m wrong because I’m from the south and most actors are either northerners or from out west and maybe they were taught differently, but I was hoping maybe you could enlighten me on the subject. It really drives me crazy every time i hear someone using the word bring in that manner of speaking. Here is an example: Instead of saying “take me to the store” they say “bring me to the store”. It sounds to me like it’s the wrong tense of a verb. The action isn’t correct, don’t you agree?

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 8-29-2021 at 09:34) Reply

      Hello. This page is about ‘have got to’. Briefly, re: “bring me to the store”: It’s awkward/unnatural, as you pointed out. However, if someone were to say it, I doubt people would correct him/her. The key difference between the two verbs is that ‘bring’ should be used when transporting someone/something to the place the speaker currently is or will be, while ‘take’ is used to transport someone/something to a place the speaker currently isn’t.

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