Grammar Talks 4-08 Modals of Obligation

Meg has to move

Meg is moving soon and she talks with Todd about all the things she needs to do.

Todd: So Meg, are you busy this weekend?

Meg: Yes, I'm so busy because I'm moving.

Todd: Oh, no.

Meg: Yeah, there's a lot of work to do.

Todd: What do you have to do?

Meg: First, I have to prepare my apartment, so I need to pack all of my things.

Todd: That's not fun.

Meg: No, it takes a long time.

Todd: Do you need help?

Meg: Yeah, do you have time to help me?

Todd: I can help you on Sunday.

Meg: Ooh, are you busy on Saturday?

Todd: Yeah, on Saturday I have to work. I have to teach two classes, and then after I teach, I have to grade papers. Oh, it sounds like you're really busy too. Plus, I have to meet my friends that evening.

Meg: Oh, what will you do with your friends?

Todd: I'm helping my friend also. My friend has car problems, so I have to take him to the mechanic, but on Sunday I can help you.

Meg: OK, that would be great because on Sunday I have to take some trash to the dump, and I have to finish some paperwork at city hall to prepare for moving to a new country

Todd: Now, because you're moving, do you have to go to the post office?

Meg: I do have to go to the post office. I almost forgot. At the post office, I have to submit a form to say my new address.

Todd: Ah, that's good because I have to go to the post office, too.

Meg: Oh, really.

Todd: I have to send my mom's birthday gift to her.

Meg: When is your mom's birthday?

Todd: It was one month ago.

Meg: Ah, so you have to send it quickly.

Todd: Yes, I have to get on it.

Meg: OK, well, let's go together.

Todd: So, I'll see you Sunday. What time should I be here?

Meg: I have to go to city hall by three p.m., so can you come at two?

Todd: OK, but if you want to go to the dump, the dump closes at noon, so we have to leave early.

Meg: Ah, OK. Can you come at eleven?

Todd: Yes. OK, so I will see you at eleven o'clock.

Meg: Great, see you then.

Todd: Bye.

Meg: Bye.

Grammar Point

Point 1: We use the modals must, need to, and have to for actions that are obligations.
  1. You must hurry.
  2. You need to finish this.
  3. I have to go now.
  4. We need to pay the bill.
Point 2: All the modals are very similar in meaning but must is stronger than have to or need to.
  1. You must take your medicine. (strong)
  2. You have to take your medicine. (not as strong)
  3. You need to take your medicine.
Point 3: The negative forms have very different meanings. Must not or mustn't is a command to not do something.
  1. You mustn't go there. / You can't go there.
  2. She mustn't trust him. / She can't trust him.
  3. They mustn't be late. / You can't be late.
  4. You mustn't lose this. / You can't lose this.
Point 4: When we say you don't need to, or don't have to do something, then it is an option or not necessary.
  1. You don't have to wear a tie. / It is OK not to wear a tie.
  2. You don't need to be there. / It is OK not to go.
  3. She doesn't have to pay me back. / She can keep her money.
  4. He doesn't need to ask her. / It is OK to not see her.
Answer the following questions about the interview.

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