I am Confused!

Are there any differences between "I have to go", "I had to go", "I've had to go", "I get to go", "I got to go", "I've got to go"?

In which situation is each term used?

I checked this dictionary http://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/get, & found that

get to do something: to have the opportunity to do something

Seem like if you have a opportunity to do something, then use "get".

The expression is in present but why we use present perfect tense (Ex: I've got to go) here?

  • 5
    LOl - If you have kids then "I've got to go" has a whole different meaning. ;-)
    – MaxW
    Jan 8, 2016 at 2:27
  • @MaxW What would that be?
    – gerrit
    Jan 8, 2016 at 11:18
  • 2
    Lol, it's not really English grammar, technically, but when a kid says "I've got to go", they are usually referring to "I've go to go [to the bathroom]"
    – Rubydesic
    Jan 8, 2016 at 11:39

3 Answers 3


It's not surprising these confuse you. There are actually three different idioms involved in your list, expressed in different combinations.

GET to VERB means, as you say, "HAVE the opportunity to VERB".

         PRESENT: I get to go. = I have the opportunity to go. 
            PAST: I got to go. = I had the opportunity to go.   
 Pr/Past PERFECT: I have/had gotten to go. = I have/had the opportunity to go.
                  ('gotten' is US; in BrE this would be 'got')

HAVE to VERB means "must" (used nowadays only in the present tense) or "BE obliged to VERB".

         PRESENT: I have to go. = I must go.  
            PAST: I had to go.  = I was obliged to go. 
 Pr/Past PERFECT: I have/had had to go = I have/had been obliged to go.

HAVE got is a replacement for "HAVE" in two uses: 1) the "possess" sense and 2) the "BE obliged" sense. It is used only in the present tense.

  1)    "Possess": I've got an old car. = I have an old car.
  2) "Be obliged": I've got to get a new car. = I must get a new car. 

It's even possible to combine the HAVE got2 idiom with the GET to idiom.

 I have simply got to get to go to Disneyland! = I simply must have the opportunity 
                                                 to go to Disneyland! 

There are lots more idioms using these two verbs, but it would take me all night to go through them, and it would probably confuse you even more.

  • ok, so what does "to have the opportunity to go" mean? Can you give an example? Ok, is this like this (Tom is at home at this moment. He has an important meeting with his buddy in 20 mins. It is time to go to see him. So, Tom said to his mom "I've got to go"). Is that right? But Why can't Tom say "I have to go"?
    – Tom
    Jan 8, 2016 at 3:27
  • Do you think you over-complicated it? "Have got to" is simply = "must" grammaring.com/modals-to-express-obligation-must-have-got-to
    – Tom
    Jan 8, 2016 at 3:34
  • @Tom "Opportunity" in this context = "good luck", more or less. "When I was in London I got to see the Changing of the Guard." Something you want to do but don't know if you will have the chance -- and then by good luck you do do it. Jan 8, 2016 at 3:35
  • @Tom 1) He can say either one. There's no difference. 2) Yes, have got to = must -- but you can't use must in the perfect or progressive, and usually not in the past, so you have to use a different paraphrase. Jan 8, 2016 at 3:37
  • 1
    @Scott 1) I mean that must is used only in present tense. 2) I've contracted it to make this clearer: I've got a new car, as in I've got Rhythm, I've got a brand new pair of roller skates = "I have", not "I have obtained". Jan 8, 2016 at 13:02

Three completely different idioms here.

"have to go" and its conjugations (including "I had to go", "I've had to go") mean "need to go [somewhere else or to do something else]".

I have to go.

(say, to do your homework.)

I had to go to school that day.

"get to go" means to get the opportunity to go [do something or to a different place].

I get to go play hockey at noon.

"got to go" can mean either "have to go" or the past tense of "get to go". You'll need context to know the correct meaning for each situation. I only really see "I've got to go" used in the "have to go" sense.

You've got to go clean your room.

I got to go.

("have to go" sense)

They finally got to go swimming. ("get the opportunity to go" sense)

"Got to go" and "get to go" are generally informal.

  • or "have got to" = "must, have to" see this site: englishpage.com/modals/havegotto.html
    – Tom
    Jan 8, 2016 at 3:32
  • Note for OP: "You got to go clean your room." is grammatically incorrect if used to mean "you have to", though people do say it that way (or even "You gotta go clean your room"...though there is no word "gotta"). The correct form is "You've got to go clean your room" or "You have got to go clean your room.". Actually, probably best is "You have got to go and clean your room."
    – Chelonian
    Jan 8, 2016 at 4:58
  • @Chelonian "Got to go" is generally informal in the first place, so people screw with grammar/proper wording a bit when using it. Jan 8, 2016 at 5:10

Firstly, in this context, "got" = "have", even though the tenses dont match. The idea is, if you got something (past tense) OR if you've gotten (present perfect) something, you now have it.

This not only works for possesion

"I've got 3 dollars" = "I got 3 dollars" = "I have 3 dollars",

but also posession

"I've got to go" = "I got to go" = "I have to go"

Regardless of the actual tense, these three mean you must go now. The phrase implies you must go due to social obligation, physical need, etc.

"I had to go" is the past tense version. e. g. "I had to go to school on Saturday when I was a young boy".

"I've had to go" is the present perfect tense version. e.g. "I've had to go to the bathroom for 2 hours now (and still have to)".

On the other hand, "I get to go" is a compeletly different expression that means "I am permitted (either by someone or the circumstance) to go). e.g. "I get to go to Disneyland next week".

The past tense version of this is "I got to go". "I got to go Disneyland last week".

As you may have noticed "I got to go" can be used in both expressions. You have to figure out which one through context.

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