Could someone please explain to me the difference between "I have to get" and "I got to get"?

I have to get some sleep now, so let's talk tomorrow, okay?

I got to get some sleep now, so let's talk tomorrow, okay?

  • It would be more appropriate to compare I have to get with I have got to get. The existing comparison is simply the difference between the present and the past—and the past-tense version, if it is such, would be I got to get some sleep yesterday. Aug 19, 2020 at 14:15
  • 1
    Some slang or casual dialects say "I got to (or 'gotta') do something" when they mean they have to do something. Especially in the US. Aug 19, 2020 at 14:44
  • As @MichaelHarvey says, "I got to get" is a substandard variant of "I've got to get".
    – Gustavson
    Aug 19, 2020 at 15:38
  • 1
    But also note the literal meaning of "to get to do sth", which is "to have an opportunity to do something" - in general a sentence like "I got to drive home" is ambiguous between "I had a chance to drive home" and "I have to drive home". In OP's example, the slang meaning @MichaelHarvey notes is probably intended, as the sentence talks about the present/near future. Aug 19, 2020 at 21:08
  • Who says it is the 'literal' meaning? Sounds pretty dialect to me. Aug 19, 2020 at 21:36

1 Answer 1


"Have to" means "must", indicating obligation. So, this sentence:

I have to get some sleep now

is equivalent to:

I must get some sleep now

Next, "got to":

Explanation 1:

"I got to" is an abbreviation of "I've got to".
"Got is a filler word ... with no obvious grammatical or semantic function." (wiktionary)
If the filler (and thus useless) word is removed, the translation becomes: "I got to" -> "I've got to" -> "I have to".

Explanation 2:

Alternatively, you may interpret "got" directly as meaning "must" or "have to". So, "I got to" -> "I have to".

Both of the explanations lead to the same result of "I have to".

Does that mean "I have to" and "I got to" are the same then?

They both mean "must", indicating obligation. However, "got" is informal/colloquial. The plain "got" without "have", even more so - the dictionary mentions "nonstandard".

  • 2
    “I got to” can also be the past of “I get to”.
    – StephenS
    Aug 19, 2020 at 22:46

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