Thursday, March 08, 2007

Today's English lesson

From the American Heritage Book of English Usage:

Gotta go, gotta
go, gotta go

The verb phrases have to and have got to express necessity and obligation. They differ subtly in meaning from the auxiliary verb must. While all of these verbs can be used to express a command or warning:
You have got to leave now.
You must not shout.
"have to" and "have got to" are somewhat more forceful than must in expressing necessity.
There has (or has got) to be some mistake.
conveys a bit more emphasis than
There must be some mistake.
Only have to can form verb phrases with may, be, and have. We can say
I may have to go.
but not
I may have got to go.
We can say
You are having to do a lot more work these days.
but not
You are having got to …
We can say
The town has had to repave its main road.
but not
The town has had got to …
In spoken English people often drop the have from have got to, as in
We got to get up early.
which can mean one of two things -- either "We have to get up early." or "We were privileged to get up early yesterday*." But in formal writing, got to (much less the slurred colloquialism gotta) is not considered acceptable. We're assuming the bladder control pharmaceutical advert that chimes "Gotta go, gotta go, gotta go right now!" isn't considered formal speech!

*since getting up early is rarely considered a privilege by any living human being I know, I think we may safely assume the first meaning is the correct one.

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