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What do you think of this?

I have to write a letter. (The obligation is the result of another’s direct command or direction.)

I have a letter to write. (The obligation does not result from the command of another, but rather is a self-imposed task: it means ‘to be burdened with’ or ‘to feel it incumbent on oneself’.)

Visser (1969).
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Comments  
I can't see how you would know from the first one whether it's self-imposed or externally imposed. This weekend, I have to pay bills. No one has called me and said "This weekend, you must pay bills!" It's just a chore that needs to be completed.
Grammar GeekI can't see how you would know from the first one whether it's self-imposed or externally imposed. This weekend, I have to pay bills. No one has called me and said "This weekend, you must pay bills!" It's just a chore that needs to be completed.

If it were self-imposed, I'd expect to hear "must". What would happen if you didn't pay those bills? Do you read the use of have to in the above example, as deontic modality, or as or epistemic modality?

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<<Do you agree that, in their obligative readings, "must" is generally subjective while "have to" is always subjective?>>
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Sorry, GG, this is what I meant to post:

Do you agree that, in their obligative readings, "must" is generally subjective while "have to" is always objective?
AnonymousWhat do you think of this?
Not true, generally speaking.
I think the version with "have something to do" kind of suggests you "have" (possession, or experience of something) something, and you need/have to/are expected to/ etc. do something with it. Maybe, somehow.

And by the way, in American English, the difference between "must" and "have to" is just a matter of register... and "gotta" is yet another alternative, the most informal one.
KooyeenAnd by the way, in American English, the difference between "must" and "have to" is just a matter of register... and "gotta" is yet another alternative, the most informal one.

How does AmEng differentiate between objective and subjective obligation?
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<<I think the version with "have something to do" kind of suggests you "have" (possession, or experience of something)>>

How can you have possession of something which is not yet written?
1. I have to write a letter. (The obligation is the result of another’s direct command or direction.)

— not necessarily. I really do have to write that letter to Visser this weekend – the one that points out all the flaws in the "another's direct command" argument.

2. I have a letter to write. (The obligation does not result from the command of another, but rather is a self-imposed task: it means ‘to be burdened with’ or ‘to feel it incumbent on oneself’.)

— not necessarily. Looking at my inbox now, for instance, I see that I have several posts to answer. It isn't a task; it isn't a burden; and I certainly don't feel it "incumbent" upon myself to reply.

Indeed, it may well turn out to be a distinct pleasure...

MrP
<<1. I have to write a letter. (The obligation is the result of another’s direct command or direction.)

— not necessarily. I really do have to write that letter to Visser this weekend – the one that points out all the flaws in the "another's direct command" argument.>>

But that would be "necessity" and not "obligation", would it?
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