Hedwig's large, round, amber eyes gazed at him reproachfully over the dead frog clamped in her beak.

‘Come here,’ said Harry, picking up the three small rolls of parchment and a leather thong and tying the scrolls to her scaly leg. ‘Take these straight to Sirius, Ron and Hermione and don't come back here without good long replies. Keep pecking them till they've written decent-length answers if you've got to. Understand?’

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

I guess "if you've got to" here probably means if you have any chance or if necessary. But I have no confidence at all. What does it mean here?

2 Answers 2


It cannot be "if you get the chance", as in if you get to (do it).

I'm going to visit the Tower of London, if I get to go to England on business.

I want to visit the Tower of London some day. I hope I get to [visit it].

Why? The tense is all wrong for that meaning. Harry is telling the owl what is expected of it. For that future aspect the simple present would be used when the meaning is if you have the opportunity. But here the tense is not simple present, get.

When there is a future context with have got to, the meaning will be "need to, must".


It's the second of your two possibilities: if necessary.

I'm on a desert island and the only thing I can see to eat is bugs. I'll eat them if I have to.

If that's the only choice or action available (in this case to survive), then so be it.

In other words, if Sirius, Ron, and Hermione won't write long replies unless Hedwig pecks at them, then that's what she should do.

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