“Tener que” and “haber de” are two constructions that convey obligation or need and are considered equivalent to the English expression of having to do something.
Both the verbs “tener” and “haber” mean to have,
although in modern Spanish we usually consider “haber” to be an auxiliary verb. So, this is a rare case when it can still function as a main verb.
Let’s see a few examples of both constructions in action:
Conclusion | En conclusión
|Using tener que ||Using haber de ||Meaning |
|“Tengo que irme” ||“He de irme” ||I have to leave |
|"Tenemos que pagar ahora” ||“Hemos de pagar ahora” ||We have to pay now |
|“Tenías que hacerlo” ||“Habías de hacerlo” ||You had to do it |
|“Tendrán que esperar” ||“Habrán de esperar” ||They will have to wait |
|“Tengo que tener mi café todas las mañanas” ||“He de tener mi café todas las mañanas” ||I have to have my coffee fix every morning |
Whilst both “tener que” and “haber de” constructions are considered identical in meaning, you are far more likely to encounter the “tener que” version in modern Spanish. Today, “haber de” constructions are considered a more archaic or poetic way to phrase things.
Of course, there are many more direct ways to express obligation or need within the Spanish language. Most obviously using verbs like necesitar (to need)
or deber (ought to / must / need).
However, at times just as we do in English, we often express these desires with far more idiomatic constructions.