How I'm having to work, in the following sentence, is different from I have to work?

The course is more demanding than I expected and I'm having to work harder than I ever have before.

  • Because you're so busy, even at the time of printing, you are working even harder than you have ever worked before. Feb 13, 2017 at 11:28
  • It looks like just a difference in tenses. With your example, the meaning is pretty much the same in both cases.
    – Lawrence
    Jun 22, 2017 at 12:07

3 Answers 3


The difference between "have to" and "having to" is the same as between the Present Simple and the Present Continuous.

  1. have to - something that we are obliged to do regularly; for a long period of time.
  2. having to - something that we are obliged to do regularly but for a limited time period
    (personal note: there's a shade of unwillingness and disgust to what is under obligation)

Consider these examples:

  • I have to read books to get educated. (It's important that I read them otherwise I'll be silly)
  • I am always having to do the dishes after the parties. (I don't like washing the dishes after the parties but I have to do it)

However, "have to" with the latter sentence will be correct too.

  • 1
    The only way you could say "I'm having to" is if an obligation repeatedly comes up (so your second example doesn't work). "Rick's distracted at work and keeps making mistakes that I'm having to correct every afternoon before leaving." You're right that it sounds like the obligation is temporary, but it can't be one-time. Also, as you said, "have to" would cover this case pretty well too, so it's the safer option. Actually, I instinctively read the progressive option as an inherently non-native wording before realizing it could work in some contexts... Jun 22, 2017 at 13:57
  • @LukeSawczak You want to say that only frequent limited period obligations work with "having to"? Jun 22, 2017 at 14:02
  • Repeatedly over a period of time not expected to be permanent, yeah -- to my instincts, anyway. The rarity of this configuration probably accounts for its striking me as incorrect at first. Some verbs just tend not to be used in the progressive, particularly if they already describe a state (such as being under obligation). Jun 22, 2017 at 14:06

Here, in the sentence, I am having to work means the person is required to work; while I have to work means the person is working, but he's not expected to work (at least, that's not implied).

This is what I inferred from the question. I am not completely sure of its accuracy.

  • 1
    It's unfortunately not very accurate. Both imply an obligation. Jun 22, 2017 at 13:49

The use of the "having to do" form may be appropriate when the speaker intends to draw attention to the limited duration of the obligation, for example:

My roommate broke his collarbone the other day, so I'm having to help him dress and undress, to water his flowers, make his bed, and do a few more things for him before he recovers.

At the same time, since the "have to do" form is nearly always correct, using it would really be the safest choice for learners in any context, in my opinion.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .