What is the difference between "I am gonna have to" and "I have to"? When would you use the first one?

update: I am specifically asking about situations like the one described here.

  • Now there is a difference between what it implies according to the rules of grammar, and what it should be understood to mean per usage!
    – Kris
    Dec 16, 2011 at 9:12

3 Answers 3


Strictly speaking, "I am gonna have to" means the request is conditional.

In the type of case you're talking about, the request is not actually conditional. It's used in conditional form as a way of making it more polite. The basic idea is that if you're merely going to have to do something, that isn't as direct as if you actually had to do it right now. Indirection and extraneous words are typical ways of making something polite.

  • Yes it's more polite. I just don't understand the thing you said about conditional request. Any example?
    – B Faley
    Aug 29, 2011 at 17:39
  • 3
    A conditional request is one that triggers if something happens, like: "If you don't quit talking, I am gonna have to ask you to leave." In this case, you can't really say, "If you don't quit talking, I have to ask you to leave." So even though it's not really conditional, using a conditional form is more polite because it's less direct. Aug 29, 2011 at 18:18
  • this thread is really helpful ell.stackexchange.com/questions/67952/i-am-to-vs-i-have-to Aug 25, 2016 at 23:12

I am gonna have is the informal way of saying I am going to have, where I am going to is used to mean "intend or be likely or intended to be or do something."
Have in I have to means "be obliged or find it necessary to do the specified thing"; it's equivalent of I must.

In requests, I am going to have is used to make a more polite request.


To put it simply, "I have to" means you currently are required to; "I'm gonna have to" means you will be required to at some point in the future.

As an example, when describing hypothetical situations, one would say "If he does this, I'm gonna have to do this".

By contrast, when describing a past occurrence, one would say "He did this, now I have to do this".

  • +1 for the temporal quality, that's definitely the effect it has in my dialect
    – Luke
    Apr 14, 2013 at 14:36

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