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Which sentences are correct?

We don’t have to go there if we don’t want to.

or

We haven’t to go there if we don’t want to.

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1  
The "unspecified/indefinite infinitive" is likely to be frowned upon in formal English, but colloquially it's fine. –  Noldorin Jan 18 '11 at 19:56
    
Non-auxiliary have is not contracted in American English. Some related reading: Is it appropriate to use short form of “have” ('ve) when it means possession? and I'ven't a clue if this is possible. Can a word be contracted twice? –  RegDwigнt Jan 18 '11 at 20:08
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3 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

American or British English, the correct way to phrase this idea is:

We don't have to go there if we don't want to.

The other sentence

We haven't to go there if we don't want to [Wrong]

as far as expressing this particular idea of not having to go somewhere, is incorrect. Why? When have to/has to is negated, the result is don't have to/doesn't have to (do not have to/does not have to).

  • You have to do this / You don't have to do this
  • They have to go / They don't have to go
  • He has to be there / He doesn't have to be there

haven't/hasn't (have not/has not) is used to express a lack of something:

  • We haven't a clue.
  • We have not a single vote.
  • I haven't the faintest idea of his whereabouts.
  • She hasn't the slightest hint of the answer.
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"British English, the correct way to phrase this idea is: We don't have to go there if we don't want to. " Doesn't BrE require a verb after to? –  msh210 Jan 18 '11 at 21:36
    
I haven't got to go there would also be correct, although likely rarer. –  adurdin Jan 18 '11 at 23:18
    
@adurdin: Sure, it would, but that's the direct negation of have got to go there, which I wasn't really considering... –  Jimi Oke Jan 18 '11 at 23:45
    
@msh210: To the best of my knowledge, no. –  Jimi Oke Jan 19 '11 at 1:31
    
Googling the Web for >"want to do then|if|because" site:.uk< gives a first-page estimate of 3,490,000 hits; >"want to then|if|because" site:.uk< gives 278,000, a 25:2 ratio. Same searches for .com give 78,200,000 and 7,720,000, respectively, a 20:2 ratio. So there may be some support for my contention. –  msh210 Jan 19 '11 at 16:31
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In American English, at least, you would use the first construction:

We don’t have to go there if we don’t want to.

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First of all, "correct" is not a very precise term in languages because they evolve constantly, and the definition of "correct" changes over time and depending on who you ask.

We don’t have to go there if we don’t want to.

This certainly sounds more natural than the other example. I would classify it as "nothing wrong with this one".

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While I agree that languages evolve, I can't imagine any situation in the future where the second sentence will ever be correct. –  user3444 Jan 18 '11 at 21:07
    
@Elendil yeah but I couldn't say "the first one is correct" without such a remark... –  romkyns Jan 19 '11 at 0:36
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