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“I have to go” = “I must go”. But, in the negative form?

I know we can say “I don’t have to go”.

But, can we also say, particularly in British English, “I haven’t got to go”?

Does this construction tend to be limited to the meaning of “possess”, as in “I haven’t got a pen”?

Thank you.

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    I haven't got to go and Have I got to go? are reasonably common in BrE, but are very rare in AmE; on this side of the pond we much prefer bare have with do- support in negations and questions. – StoneyB on hiatus Aug 4 '16 at 22:25
  • @Bobsbosomfriend It isn't clear whether you are asking about a lack of requirement or a prohibition. "I'm not required to go" == "I haven’t got to go." But "I'm required not to go" == "I mustn't go." – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Aug 5 '16 at 0:54
  • Yes, I understand that difference. My question was about the form, not the meaning. Thank you. – Bob's bosom friend Aug 5 '16 at 1:22
  • "I haven't got to go" would be the negative of "I have got to go". "I don't have to go" would be the usual form – BillJ Aug 5 '16 at 6:34
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According to British English speaker and linguist F. R. Palmer, one can use

I haven't to go

or, in negation, preferably

I don't have to go

or

I haven't got to go

to deny that one has the obligation of going. Which means that the three sentences above can mean

It is not the case that I am obliged to go.

This is different to

I mustn't go

which means

It is the case that I am obliged not to go (I must not-go)

Palmer offers the following as another example of haven't (got) to:

If you don't want to succeed, you haven't got (=don't have) to work hard.

Which means

If you don't want to succeed, it is not the case that you are obliged to work hard.

Compare this to

If you don't want to succeed, you mustn't work hard.

means

If you don't want to succeed, it is the case that you are obliged not to work hard.

However, Palmer states that haven't (got) to can be used like mustn't in the above examples of mustn't

You haven't got to play around in here

can mean either

It is not the case that you are obliged to play around in here

(Here haven't got to equals don't have to)

or "less commonly" (Palmer)

It is the case that you are obliged to not play around in here.

(Haven't got to equals mustn't).

See F. R. Palmer: The English Verb, 2nd Edition, sections 6.5, 6.6. Longman Linguistics Library.

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  • Palmer notwithstanding, "I haven't to go" would be very marked in modern British. – James K Aug 4 '16 at 23:22
  • @James K Note that Palmer was born in 1922! --I'm tempted to call his idiom Late Modern English, and today's Post-Modern (not postmodern) English. – StoneyB on hiatus Aug 4 '16 at 23:53
  • Can people not read the words preferably and less commonly. Palmer is spare with his words, so these are meant to be taken with their maximum latitude or implication. – Alan Carmack Aug 5 '16 at 0:14
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    Thank you very much: everything is quite clear. I suppose that in "It is not the case that I am obliged go", the omission of "to" before "go" is a typo. – Bob's bosom friend Aug 5 '16 at 1:39
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"I haven't got to go" is perfectly natural, idiomatic British English. The meaning is that going is optional.

So, "I've got to..." is the same as "I have to..." and "I must". (But notice the contraction "I've to" is odd or incorrect)

But while "I haven't got to" = "I don't have to", they are different in meaning to "I mustn't", as this last one expresses a prohibition.

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