Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

English immersion program NYC All Ears English

Do you hear certain aspects of conversation that are sometimes confusing?

Are you confused between the differences in “I got” and “I have”?

How about “got to” vs “have to”?

These are words and phrases that can be a bit confusing in English, as the differences are subtle.

We’re going to look at these differences to understand which one works best.


Here’s a letter that asks this very question that can help to summarize this confusion.

Hi to all,

I’d like to say how much fun it is to listen to you on my walk to work, and to learn with you.

My question is–what’s the difference between “got” and “have” in a present sentence?

Is there a way to understand that?

-Howe Olivera


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Different Words Can Sometimes Mean The Same Thing

It can be confusing when there are two ways to say the same things.

Natives even use these two words interchangeably  and can’t really explain why or what the differences are.

It’s okay if you aren’t sure which to use because they both mean the same thing.

They are both acceptable to use, though you may tend to go with the more informal if it’s in conversation rather than in writing.


Breaking Down The Different Uses

“Got” is just more informal than “have” in a sentence.

They mean the same thing, but they can be used differently if it’s formal or informal.

This is all about possession in the end, and it’s about what is acceptable.

Think about what is acceptable in spoken English because it’s generally more relaxed.

Saying something more formal would be a bit odd in everyday conversation.

You wouldn’t say “I have got”–you would just take out the word “have” to make it more informal in spoken conversation.

It does depend on who you are around when you are talking to.


Consider Your Audience and How You Are Trying To Say Something

In British English, you might see the word “have” used in conversation more frequently.

This may be because it’s a bit more formal.

It’s okay to say something incorrectly because that’s how you learn.

Not all teachers may say that, but this is how you build up your vocabulary and confidence.

Most of the time in conversation it’s fine to go with the more informal as it feels more natural.


Taking It One Step Further

You may have heard people say “gotta”, and this may feel weird to you at first.

Try it and see how it may be exciting for you to speak like a native the first time you use it.

“I’d love to hang out but I gotta get to class.”

This is talking about situations and has switched from possession as in the first example.

Think of the context and try using these different slang ways of saying things to make connections and practice new words.



Take the pressure off of yourself because these words and phrases mean the same thing.

You may make mistakes at first, but even the natives do this.

You learn by practicing, so try using each word or phrase as they mean the same thing.

Remember that spoken conversation is far different than written conversation.

Trying out new words and phrases like these in conversation is how you make connections.


If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back with you as soon as we can. 

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