Spanish Grammar - Expressions of Obligation

Spanish grammar lesson 11: expressions of obligation

These phrases are used when expressing a need to do (or not to do) something.

Such statements can be personal or impersonal depending on word choice.

In this lesson we will review: tener que, deber, necesitar, haber que, and hacer falta


Tener que + infinitive verb = to have to + verb

Tenemos que comprar estas medicinas en la farmacia.

(We have to buy these medicines in the pharmacy.)

Va a tener que dejar de comer tanta comida rápida.

(He/she/you are going to have to stop eating fast food.)

Tuvimos que aislar al paciente.

(We had to isolate the patient.)


Deber + infinitive verb = must / ought to + verb

Debe limpiar la herida al menos una vez al día.

(He/she/you must clean the wound at least once per day.)

Debe usar una cobija eléctrica para ese dolor de espalda.

(He/she/you ought to use a heating pad for that back pain.)


Necesitar + infinitive verb = to need to + verb

Necesitan traer el registro de vacunas para la próxima cita.

(They/you need to bring the vaccine record for the next appointment.)



Haber que + infinitive verb = it is necessary to / required to + verb

Hay que hacer una tomografía urgentemente.

(It is necessary to do a CT scan urgently.) Note: This is an impersonal verb which literally says, "There is that to do..."

El paciente se complicó, y hubo que ingresarlo en cuidados intensivos.

(The patient became complicated, and it was necessary to admit him in intensive care.)


Hacer falta (literally, "to make missing") + infinitive verb = it is necessary to / required to + verb

Hace falta tener los resultados antes de proceder con la operación.

(It is necessary to have the results before proceeding with the operation.)

Solamente hace falta un punto más.

(Only one more stitch is needed.)


Return to List of Spanish Grammar Lessons