Could you please explain the rules for using the phrase "having to"? For example, in this sentence:

"Love means never having to say you're sorry."

Why is "having to" appropriate here? Why is it used in this case, but not in other cases where the verb "say" is used?

  • I'm not sure what you think is necessary. Do you means why is the verb "have" necessary or why does it have to be in this form? Because It is possible to express the banal sentiments of Love Story without the gerund "having." For example, "Love means that you never have to say you're sorry."
    – deadrat
    Jul 16, 2015 at 5:25

2 Answers 2


Without "having to", the sentence would be:

"Love means never saying you're sorry."


"Love means you never have to say you're sorry."

Both of which are untrue in the specific sense. People in love say (and need to say) "I'm sorry" all the time. The true meaning of the quote is, on a general level, that even if you do say you're sorry it doesn't absolutely need to be said, as people in true love will always forgive each other.

"Love means never having to say you're sorry."

Using the generic "having to" rather than the potentially specific "you have to" helps elevate the statement from specific-to-this-apology advice to a general proverb about relationships.

Proverb: A short pithy saying in general use, stating a general truth or piece of advice.

It's true that the pronoun in "you have to" can be taken as a generic you, which gives it mostly the same meaning as "having to".

But the (implied) subject in "having to" is an even stronger indefinite pronoun than the "you" in "you have to", which could easily be taken as a specific singular "you" subject.

Using "having to" definitively indicates that the phrase is a general statement that applies to many people, not just those at hand.


Having to is a lot like being obligated to

I have to eat, or I will die.

It emphasizes a necessity in order to proceed

I have to turn left to get to Lisa's house.

The difference between the two is that to obligate is to give someone else an order, while having to can be personal.

I have to urinate

You are not obligated to urinate, but if you have to, then it means

You have the need to ...


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