I'm an English native-speaker. Somehow I've got the construction "Ich habe zu..." in my mind and I don't know if it's correct. zB: Ich habe zu gehen or Ich habe zu beichten. It seems old or formal for "I am obliged (I must) to leave." And "I am obliged to confess." Is this something arcane or just plain wrong?


1 Answer 1


It's contemporary German to use haben zu as a variation for müssen. The tricky part is, it's a mild alternative if you are the one who must act:

Ich habe noch zu tun. (asks for understanding) — Ich muss noch etwas tun. (dismissive)

Ich habe zu danken. (glad) — Ich muss ihnen danken. (subordinative)

And a harsh alternative if someone else must act, in your view:

Er hat einzusehen, dass … (harsh) — Er muss einsehen, dass … (sympathetic)

Sie haben zuzugeben, dass … (harsh) — Sie müssen zugeben, dass … (sympathetic)

Your examples:

Ich habe zu gehen. (asks for sympathy) — Ich muss gehen. (plain or dismissive)

Ich habe zu beichten. (asks for sympathy) — Ich muss beichten. (plain or dismissive)

  • Problematisch is when you say "Du hast zu gehen," but it sounds like "Du hasst zu gehen."
    – 147pm
    Jan 25, 2018 at 2:40

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