In English, have to is used for strong obligations. For example, I have the obligation (by the rules of the house) to study when my mother says "You have to study". See here for example.

On the other hand, should is used for recommendations and strong advice. If I say "You should study" to a friend, I mean that he will have troubles if he don't do it, but it is implied that it is ultimately his choice.

The difference is small and my textbook translates both sentences by 공부 해야 돼요.

Is there a grammatical structure that I can use to introduce the nuance between have to and should?

  • I thought that the urgency is ordered as "must > should > have to > need to". Was I understanding incorrectly?
    – Hwang
    Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 8:31
  • Related question on English Language and Usage. Can you include some context (a dialogue) where you need to use "have to" or "should"? Your question is unanswerable without any context and it is too broad.
    – user7
    Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 9:37
  • 1
    @Hwang: I am not sure there is a linear order (you said you are into maths ;) ?) between them but subtle nuances. One reference I read before asking the question is learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org/grammar-vocabulary/…
    – Taladris
    Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 1:03
  • @Rathony: Dialogue, seriously? In which way my examples lack context? Isn't "I have the obligation (by the rules of the house)" enough context?
    – Taladris
    Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 1:05
  • 1
    Although “have to” and “should” have many meanings, I think the question body here is clear about which particular usages are being referred to. I wonder if the title itself might be clearer if it didn't focus so much on those particular words though? Something like "How to distinguish between unavoidable obligations and strong recommendations"? Just a thought. Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 1:37

1 Answer 1


In Korean, both "should" and "have to" are expressed by the same grammatical structure: 아/어야 되다/하다/지(colloquial)/겠다(future tense equivalent). Koreans do not identify the difference between "have to" and "should" in their daily life as they are conveying very similar meaning. The only difference of these two words in English is the extent.

If you want, you may also use another grammar: ㄹ/을 필요가 있다. But its correct translation should be "need to".

Example: 숙제를 오늘밤에 할 필요가 있다. -> You need to finish your homework tonight.(changing "need to" to "have to" does not seem to make a difference in this case)

ㄹ/을 수밖에 없다 could be similar, but its meaning should be "can only".

Example: 이 곳에서 떠날 수밖에 없어요. -> I can only leave this place. (I have to leave this place.)

Addressing the expression "You are recommended to...":

I think using (으)면 좋(겠)다 will best fit the meaning. Ex: 지금부터 공부하면 좋겠어.

If you want to express the word "strongly", you may use 강하게, or I saw 강력히 being used in articles. But combining it with the grammatical principle quoted above may not be a good idea. You may use the word 권하다, but it is a bit authoritative.

Ex: You are strongly recommended to think twice. 다시 생각해 보는 것을 강력히 권합니다.

Hope this helps.

  • Thank you. It seems that your answer addresses only the case of "have to" (unavoidable obligation). What about a strong recommendation like should? In that case, in English, it is also possible to say "You are strongly recommended to study", though it sounds very formal. I would accept your answer if you add that bit.
    – Taladris
    Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 4:51
  • Could '하면 좋다' be used in a translation of 'should' as a strong recommendation? Or can it not be strong enough? Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 8:44
  • Examples(strong recommendation): 길 건널 때에는 조심해야한다.(You should be careful when you cross the street.) 공부는 도서관에서 해야돼.(The place where you study should be a library.) 칼을 뽑았으면 무라도 베어야지.(Once you draw the sword, you should at least cut a radish.)
    – Hwang
    Commented Oct 8, 2016 at 13:05

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