I'm not a native speaker of English. I would like to know the difference of "have to" and "need to" when used in a sentence. Thank you!

  • I have to go to work now.

  • I need to go to work now.

  • 3
    There's not a dime's worth of difference between those two. Both express the necessity of having to go to work. – Robusto Apr 9 '18 at 14:03

I think it is a minor difference, and more detailed context would be helpful.
But in general -

I just got back from the beach. I have to go to work now.

means that the time you intended to leave has arrived. Whereas:

My boss called and told me that a customer was unhappy. I need to go to work now.

means there is some requirement that you go to work. Such as some special activity came up, etc.

  • You should edit your answer to fully describe the difference as spatial in time. – clifton_h May 13 '18 at 0:42

In english, the best place to start is the online dictionary, a good one is at www.dictionary.com. This will tell you what the word is (noun, verb) and give you several meanings.

The meanings are often similar, for example "need" always implies something that is necessary, such as "you NEED water to live". Under the definition of "have", all the meanings imply some form of possession, "you HAVE food". If you scroll down the definition of have, (open up for more definitions with the down arrow), then one meaning of "have" is "to be required", or obligated. You HAVE a contract, therefore you must do it.

to have to

Definition 26: to be required, compelled, or under obligation

to need

Definition 1: a requirement, necessary duty, or obligation

The difference is in the definitions. If you NEED to go to work, it is your need, it is because you need money or because you need to be busy. If you HAVE to go to work is is because you are obligated, your husband/wife expects it, it is compulsory, you are under contract. It's not a base need, but you are somehow forced to do it. The confusion comes in that there is an overlap. You might NEED money and therefore HAVE to go to work.

  • I understand what you're trying to do here, but I think these words are much more synonymous and interchangeable than your answer makes them out to be. You are writing as though there is some subtle nuance whereby the verb choice makes a difference. In reality, though, you can HAVE to go to work because you need the money, and you can NEED to go to work because you're under contractual obligation to do so. – J.R. Apr 9 '18 at 15:06
  • The question can be answered with a dictionary, then please vote to close it rather than try to answer it. If you feel your must answer, comment instead. – Andrew Apr 9 '18 at 16:00
  • Actually I would respectfully disagree, need and have to are most definitely not interchangeable. I agree with closing, this is a dictionary question. However, I don't agree with answering in comments. It makes it difficult to see what has been addressed and what has not. Also when people with similar questions refer back in the future, they are looking for answers and may not necessarily read the comments. – Ariane Kh Anderson Apr 9 '18 at 16:51

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