Expressing obligation in Spanish it is not complicated, there are different ways so let`s see how to do it:
4 ways to express obligation in Spanish
1. Tener que + infinitive is one way to express obligation or necessity. This expression is like the English “to have to…”. Tener is conjugated according to the subject of the sentence:
Tengo que ir al médico (I have to go to the doctor).
Carlota tiene que escribir un informe (Carlota has to write a report).
Marisa y Ramón tienen que comprar una lavadora (Marisa and Ramón have to buy a washing machine).
Click here if you want to learn more about how to use the Spanish verb TENER.
2. Hay que + infinitive is used to express the idea of “something has to be done” or, “it is necessary to do something” It is a more general expression and since there is no subject, the verb form HAY is always used:
Hay que tener pasaporte para viajar a EEUU (It is necessary to have a passport to travel to USA).
Hay que estudiar mucho para aprender un idioma (One must study a lot to learn a foreign language).
Click here if you want to learn more ways to use HAY in Spanish.
3. Deber + infinitive, when used in this way, DEBER is frequently similar in meaning to the English “must,” or “ought”:
Debemos estudiar el vocabulario (We ought to study vocabulary).
¿Qué bicicleta crees que debo comprarme? (Which bike do you think I must buy?).
4. DEBERÍA + infinitive, the use of deber to express obligation can be made more polite by using the conditional tense instead of the present tense. In this case, could be translated like “should” and sounds more like advice:
Deberías ir al médico (you should go to the doctor).
Deberíamos comprar un coche nuevo (we should buy a new car).
Click here to see verb DEBER conjugation.
Expressing obligation in Spanish practice and exercises
Now you can practice with a quiz what you have learned in the lesson (just click on the link). Remember you can get in touch with your tutor with any question about expressing obligation in Spanish. Don’t you have a Spanish personal tutor yet?
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