I know that have belongs to British English and have got belongs to American English. This is clear to me.

I've watched Les Miserables. Although some (most?) actors are Americans, one of them said in an interview that they used the British dialect. Here is a quotation from the film:

There are children back at home. And the children have got to be feed.

The plot takes place in the second half of the nineteenth century. So is it a mistake or is have a relatively new word in British English? It seems highly unlikely to me.

Also, I've watched Robin Hood. I'm aware that the TV series couldn't be made with an original dialect which was used in the 12th century, but I was suprised that the characters used have got and have got to very ofen, much more ofen that have.

Why is that?

  • 1
    This may be a little unexpected, but "Have got to is much more common in BrE than AmE." Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 15:56
  • @Damkerng, what do you mean? Are you saing that Americans usually say have got and have to and Britors usually say have and have got to? Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 16:20
  • I didn't mean that. You can find more details on that page (that I linked to). Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 17:21
  • "Have got to" marks the words as being from an informal level of English. This applies even though Les Mis takes place in France and the characters would be speaking French. Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 10:12

3 Answers 3


There is no error or violation of dramatic decorum in this.

First, the actor's native dialect is irrelevant: actors mostly speak lines written by the playwright or screenwriter, not lines they make up themselves on the spot. And playwrights and screenwriters are generally more concerned to communicate effectively with their audiences than to main strict historical authenticity.

Second, HAVE got to = must is widely used in both BrE and AmE, although somewhat more widely in BrE. The construction was strongly deprecated by American schoolmarms for a century, so in the US it is somewhat more of a social class/education indicator than in the UK; but the character who sings this line is a factory worker.

Third, HAVE got to was already current in both BrE and AmE in the first half of the 19th century, the time at which Les Miserables is set.


It's not as simple as saying that one expression is British English and the other American English. Both versions are used in both varieties but one is used more in one and less in the other.

Also, in this case, the English translator of the original French text has to fit the words into a line of music, and might decide to use a less common expression in order to do so (or even change usual English word order completely).


As far as I can see, "I have a bike" and "I've got a bike" are both used in British, Australian and American English with effectively the same meaning.

It is quite possible that one is used more than the other in particular places. As an Irish speaker of English, I think I would use "I've got a bike" more often than "I have a bike", but that may well be just a regional or local preference, and

As far as 'have got to' and 'have to' is concerned (and, contrary to what someone else implies above, these terms are not equivalent to 'must'), the situation is similar, at least on this side of the Atlantic, with "I've got to go now" meaning effectively the same as "I have to go now."

I'm told old-fashioned schoolteachers in the US tended not to encourage the "I've got to" form back in the day, probably because of its tendency to break down into "I gotta" but, if my US acquaintances are anything to go by (and they're not a scientific sample), their efforts seem to have fairly miserably.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .