Have To vs Had To: Difference and Comparison

English is quite an easy language to be known. It is suggested to be perfect in grammar to have a grip and perfection about any language. Thus, every language has its grammar and rules for the same.

English grammar contains verbs, nouns, pronouns, tenses, modals, synonyms, antonyms, homophones, and many more. The terms “Have to’ and “Had to” are part of models and do have the slightest difference between them.

Key Takeaways

  1. “Have to” and “had to” are used to express obligation or necessity, but they differ in tense.
  2. “Have to” is present tense and refers to something currently necessary or required, while “had to” is past tense and refers to something necessary or required in the past.
  3. “Have to” is used in informal contexts, while “had to” is used in more formal contexts.

Have To vs Had To

“Have to” talks about any obligation or compulsion statement, while “Had to” discusses any necessity in a statement. The first term is present and future tense, and the second is used for past tense. 

Have To vs Had To

Have to is said to be a transitive verb. It is used to signify any compulsion or obligation imposed on a subject. Like consider the given statement – You must complete the cooking task in an hour.

In this statement, the subject is said to be forced to complete the work on a given deadline.

Had to is said to be a semi-modal verb. And it is used to make any necessary comment through a statement. Because ‘had to” is the past form of “have to’ therefore it is only used when any task is performed in the past.

For example- I had to complete my work by 10 A.M. The subject had already completed his work in the past.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonHave ToHad To
Usage It is used when any obligation or compulsion is expressed.It is used when any necessity is expressed.
ExampleI have to finish my job on time.As she failed the exam, she had to reappear for the exam.
TensePresent or FuturePast
Used WithIt is used with all the plural subjects, including I, They, You, and We.It is used with all the subjects but in the past tense.
ActionsThe actions have been completed just now.The actions that have been completed in the past.

What is Have To?

“Have to” is considered to be the transitive verb that is used to describe any obligating situation. The term is mainly about the compulsion made by someone else to complete a task at a given deadline. For example, if we look at the statement below –

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We must have to go to school tomorrow.

In the above example, it is seen that the subject is forced or has the compulsion to complete the task. The term “Have to” is used in Present and Future Tense. The structure to form a sentence with the modal verb is – Subject + Modal Verb + Have to.

The term can be used in three ways – Affirmative, Negative, and Interrogative. Below are some examples of the same.

Affirmative – I have to wake up at 5 A.g.

Negative – I do not have to wake up at 5 A.g.

Interrogative – Do I have to wake up at 5 A.M. in the morning?

The term “Have to” can be used with all the subjects in their plural forms along with I, They, You, and We. It symbolizes the work which is in continuous form or is just completed.

What is Had To?

“Had to” is considered the semi-model verb and is mainly used to describe any necessary work to be done in any statement by the subject. Thinformationnt is supposed to represent the work issue that has been done. For example, if we look at the statement below –

After her mother’s demise, she had to be vital to her family.

The work had to be done sooner or later.

In the example mentioned above, it is observed that the work done by the subject in the statement is the necessity of the time. The term “Had to” is the second and third form of the verb and is used for the Past Tense.

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The structure to form a sentence with the term is as follows – Subject + Had to + Third form of Verb.

The above term can be used in three ways. For example, Affirmative, Negative, and interrogative below are the same examples relative to the examples given in the “Have to” section for simple understanding.

The term “Had to” is converted to the first form for the negative and interrogative types of sentences.

Affirmative – I had to wake up early at 6 A.M.

Negative – I did not have to wake up early at 6 A.M.

Interrogative – Did I have to wake up early at 6 A.M?

Main Differences Between Have To and Had To

  1. When any obligation or compulsion is made, “have to” is used as an expression, while any necessity is made “, had to” is used.
  2. “Have to’ is used for the present and future tense, while “Had to” is used for the past tense.
  3. The action that has been completed at the moment or is in continuous form uses the verb ‘have to,” whereas thstepsns that have been completed in the past use the verb “had to”.
  4. “Have to” is used with all the subjects in the plural form along with You, We, I, and They, whereas “Had to’ is used with every issue but in the past tense.
  5. For example, I Have to complete my assignments. While for Had to – He had gone to Goa for his vacations.   


  1. https://www.jstor.org/stable/41301865?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents
  2. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1198/000313006×152649

Last Updated : 11 June, 2023

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