As fas as I know, "have to" is the commoner version of the two,
but I'm finding more and more that "having to" is also used instead of "have to".

She has to / is having to look after herself now.

Are both freely interchangeable without any difference in meaning?
If any,I want to know what is the difference between the two and when you use "having to" more preferably than the other.

Proper contexts with good examples to be given will be very helpful to me.

  • 1
    I am not an expert but to me it seems like "is having to" defines an ongoing situation where "has to" defines only an idea. The speaker not sure about if it's going to happen that way while using "has to" but when uses "is having to" it sounds more like obvious and sure. Aug 6, 2014 at 10:45
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    I'm sure OP's I'm finding more and more that "having to" is also used is simply a "recency illusion". Either that, or OP interacts with many speakers of Indian English (whose "overuse" of continuous verb forms is a stereotypical identifying characteristic). Aug 6, 2014 at 13:26

3 Answers 3


"Have to" as expressing obligation or importance of having to do something has all the possibilities of a normal verb. You need an auxiliary when you use it in a question or in the negative :

Do I have to do that now ?
You don't have to go.

It can be used in the past:

I had to get up early this morning.

And you can use it the with -ing form. Choosing to use -ing form or not is done a purpose of course, and the difference will be the same as with any other verb.

Two extracts from US writers :

There have been many times, when Laura Bell has had to walk all alone back to her home, unless a few of her siblings would walk along with her while she is having to walk to school or having to run an errand out on the Ridge for her Ma...

now after four months cooped up, her arthritis is so bad, she is having to learn a new stand-up style...

a New Zealand paper:

the parents are having to make really difficult choices

a British Californian blog

Why are we having to subsidize the tight proprietors who don’t pay their staff properly?

Other examples from what seem to be reliable sources*, links provided for having full context:

*The difficulty in finding examples in English on the Internet is that English is used as a lingua franca and you can never be sure what is written has been written by a native who has a good knowledge of the language.

  • Thanks Laure for the living examples! I just tried it out. Is this natural to your ear? I'm new to here today - so I'm having to put up my thanks like this.
    – daemang
    Aug 6, 2014 at 11:49
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    Your use of "having to" in "I'm having to put up my thanks like this" sounds perfectly correct and idiomatic to my ears. We don't usually thank or say please here. But I think even with little reputation you can click on the arrow (up) on the left had side of the answer to say you find the answer useful, and even - after a few days to allow other people to give what could be better answers - accept the answer, or an another answer, by clicking on the tick.
    – None
    Aug 6, 2014 at 11:57

Has to is the common form correct in great most cases.

is having (without to) appears only as an idiom for eating.

She has to buy a sandwich - means opinion/necessity: "she definitely should buy a sandwich" or "She has no other choice, she must buy a sandwich."

She has a sandwich - ownership. She bought a sandwich and kept it, it's hers.

She is having a sandwich - eating. She is eating the sandwich.

I don't think I could think of an example where "She is having to do something" would be correct.

  • "Have to be paid" vs "Having to be paid" Mar 21, 2019 at 3:32
  • @Kumarsadhu: It works if you use the phrase "having to do something" like you would use a noun: The ludicrous idea of having to be paid or Having to sell my soul was a kind of a bummer. I've encountered stuff like "She's having a hard time" (meaning life difficulties, the ownership meaning of have). But "is having to" like a verb - maybe, maybe, "she's having to fix her car over and over"? It's stretching the grammar...
    – SF.
    Mar 21, 2019 at 10:05

Difference Between "Have To" and "HAVING TO" is similar to the use of Present Simple (Present Indefinite) and Present Progressive (Present Continous) tenses.

While using have to, we refer something that we do regularly / for a longer period of time, e.g.

I have to walk 5km every day to pick the bus for my office. (i.e. this is a part of my routine activities)

Whereas, "Having To" is used while we mention something that we are doing for a limited time period due to any need / requirement, e.g.

I am having to do extra work in the absence of my colleague. (i.e. it's not my job but I am doing it due a specific reason and for a particular time period.)

Hope it helps in answering your query. If anyone thinks I am not correct then please rectify.

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