Is "I gotta go" closer in meaning to "I have to go" or "I should go"? I mean, how strong is it?

Thanks in advance.

  • Actually, despite what Soverein Sun says, "I gotta go" can mean both "I have to go" or "I should go." There is little difference between the two statements, except that the latter is somewhat softer.
    – Robusto
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 13:00
  • Please wait a day or two before accepting an answer, even if you receive a good one right away. For why this is usually wise, read here.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 13:51
  • I gotta go = I have [got] to go = I must go. Alternatively, I oughta go = I ought to go = I should go. Different words with potentially different implied meanings, but note that very often the speaker wouldn't want to be drawn on whether he's leaving because he must, ought to or simply wants to go. Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 15:16
  • @Robusto I would agree but could you explain this difference? Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 19:00
  • @SovereignSun: "I gotta <verb>" can express either necessity or desire. Not sure what you don't understand.
    – Robusto
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 21:54

2 Answers 2


"I gotta go" means "I have got to go" (more informal) and "I have to go". Both mean the same.

Have (got) to is used to refer to obligations which come from outside the speaker

  • have (got) to is a requirement. (I am forced to go)
  • should is a suggestion (optional). (I want to go although I may stay)
  • (Have) got to VERB is not restricted to deontic (obligation) uses: it can also be epistemic ("That's got to hurt"). Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 13:09
  • @StoneyB It is only in Am.E? Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 13:27
  • 2
    No; epistemic have got to appears to be more widely used in AmE, but it is used and understood in BrE too. Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 13:39

"I gotta go" is an abbreviated form of "I have got to go", so it is equivalent to "I have to go" or "I must go".

In US vernacular the have piece of have got is dropped as often as not, (but less often with the third-person singular has got) in both the possessive ("I got plenty of nothin") and 'modal' ("I got to go now", "That's got to hurt") senses. Got has in effect become an independent verb. In the US this got is still defective, used only as a 'simple present', but in some speech communities it is employed as an infinitive and takes do support:

I'll pay you tomorrow, I don't got the cash now.
Don't you got a Prius? How do you like it?
Do you got five bucks you can lend me?

The first two were already common in General Southern when I was a boy sixty years ago; I believe the third is currently heard only in AAVE, but I imagine other dialects will pick it up in the next generation or so.

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