They’ve got a hotel to run.

I've across with the phrase above in a novel. But apparently it's a famous sentence in The Furchester Hotel:

They're furry and crazy - and they've got a hotel to run!

But what does it mean?

Note: James and Bradley are the hotel's owners.

The fuller text is:

“If we could all just stop pointing the finger at me for a minute, there’s something I’d like to bring up,” Matthew says. He knows he sounds a bit aggressive; he doesn’t care. They’ve practically accused him of murder, for God’s sake. “What’s that?” David says. “I think James and Bradley are hiding something.” James looks completely taken aback. Bradley flushes to the roots of his hair. “What do you mean?” James stammers. Matthew leans toward James and Bradley, who are seated together. “This is your hotel. Maybe you know something the rest of us don’t.” “Like what?” James says, on the defensive. “I don’t know. But I’ve seen you two whispering together. What have you been whispering about?” “We haven’t been whispering,” James says, coloring. “Yes, you have, I’ve seen you.” “Oh, for Christ’s sake,” Ian interjects, “they’ve got a hotel to run.”

  • I'm curious about furry and crazy. Epecially because I I don't see it in the expanded quotation. – Jason Bassford Sep 2 '18 at 15:19
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    They are puppets in a kid's TV show. It is a BBC spin-off of Sesame Street called "The Furchester Hotel". In each episode, alongside Elmo and Cookie Monster, they figure out how to solve different issues that are developed by the guests of the hotel. – Michael Harvey Sep 2 '18 at 15:48
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    I forgot to mention that they are, indeed, furry. – Michael Harvey Sep 2 '18 at 19:48

When you've got a {something} to {verb of doing} you have (pressing) obligations in respect to the something.

We've got a test to take. We must take a test.

We can't party tonight. We've got a test to take.

We've got a hole to dig. We must dig a hole.

We're not making much progress here. Come on guys, we've got a hole to dig!

We've got a cake to bake. We must bake a cake.

Stop playing with the spatula. Your cousin's visiting tomorrow. It's her birthday, and we've got a cake to bake.

Come on, kids! We've got a train to catch!

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    Nice answer to cover the general form. One extra refinement though - the difference between "we've got to dig a hole" and "we've got a hole to dig" is that the latter implies you're being more specific about which hole is being dug, and also implies additional urgency. – Graham Sep 2 '18 at 22:57

I'm guessing that the confusion comes from the use of the word run.

There are a very large number of meanings for this word. The one being used here is described by Merriam-Webster:

6 c : to direct the business or activities of : manage, conduct • run a factory

In other words, the sentence can be thought of as:

They've got a hotel to take care of!

Or, to rephrase it some more:

They've got a hotel that needs to be taken care of by them.

  • The way I read your final example suggests to me that they own the hotel, whereas in the general case, this type of construction doesn't imply ownership. I would interpret "they've got a hotel to run" more like "they need to run the hotel", rather than "they have a hotel that they need to run" (which is what your final example reads like to me). – Tom Fenech Sep 3 '18 at 14:53
  • @TomFenech Interesting. I didn't think of it that way until you mentioned it. (I still don't read it that way if I don't have your point in mind.) I suppose you could say there's a hotel or they work at a hotel. Or just leave it as the shorter version. But there's a sense to they've got that seems more direct to me than just needing to do something. Kind of like "I've got this mess on my hands." – Jason Bassford Sep 3 '18 at 15:07
  • I guess the easiest way to restructure would just be "they need to take care of a hotel", which leaves it completely ambiguous. – Tom Fenech Sep 3 '18 at 15:10
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    "There is a very large number of meanings". Should be plural. "There are a very large number of meanings" or simply "There are many meanings". Sorry, I don't have edit permission. – Nigel Touch Sep 3 '18 at 18:14

To better understand the phrase, you can restructure it:

They've got a hotel to run

can be rearranged to

They've got to run a hotel

The construction they have (got) to indicates an obligation:

They need to run (manage/take care of) a hotel

Note that there is nothing to suggest ownership of the hotel in the phrase itself; this only comes from the context.

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