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I learnt that you use "must" when the speaker is the one who decided the choice.

On the other hand, "have to" is used in case the choice was made by someone else.

I also learnt that "have to" and "have got to" are basically the same, though the latter is rather informal.

How about "gotta"?

In Pokémon, Ash says "Gotta catch'em all!", but he is the one who decided what to do. Therefore, based on what I learnt at school, he should say "I must catch them all" instead of "I've got to catch them all."

I know "gotta" is only used in informal conversations, but is it different from "have to"? Is "gotta" used when the speaker is the one who made the choice?

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  • Gotta is short for [I] have got to. Apr 7, 2023 at 8:36

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It is because, from Ash's perspective, the requirement to "catch'em all" is not a choice but comes externally. Ash isn't making a choice, he is driven by his subconscious desires, the expectations of the society he lives in, the judgement of other trainers and so on.

In fact neither "must" not "have (got) to" are about personal choice. If you say "I must ..." or "I have to..." the meaning is the same - "I don't have a choice". There is a slight difference (and it is only nuance) when saying "You must" or "You have to" - "You must" can mean "I am imposing a rule on you" whereas "You have to" can mean "Someone else is imposing a rule on you".

Ash's choice to use "Have to" is because this has a nice casual form "Gotta" and not because of any difference in meaning.

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  • 3
    I shall be defending my PhD titled "On the social the social structure of Pokemon World - the implication of 'Gotta' for meta-psychoanalysis of animated characters" later this year.
    – James K
    Apr 7, 2023 at 8:19

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