The Grammarphobia Blog

You’ve got to be kidding

Q: I cringe when I hear people say “I’ve got to do this” or “I have got to do that.” What’s wrong with simply saying “I have to do this” or “I must do that”?

A: I’m sorry that I have to disagree with you about “have got to” in place of “have to” or “must.” The “have got to” construction, conveying an obligation or a duty, has been an accepted idiom since the 1860s.

Published examples can be found in the writings of Lewis Carroll, Mark Twain, John Ruskin, and others. The Oxford English Dictionary’s earliest reference is in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865): “The first thing I’ve got to do is to grow to my right size again.”