Using ‘Haber Que’ and ‘Haber Que’

Both phrases used to indicate an action is necessary

doctor checking heartbeat of a girl
Para ser doctor, hay que estudiar mucho. (In order to be a doctor, you need to study a lot.).

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Two of the most common phrases using haber are haber que and haber de, both of which can be used to express obligation or the need to perform certain actions.

Keep in Mind

  • Haber que, usually in the form hay que, is used in the third person to say that an action is necessary or essential.
  • The more formal haber de can be used to say that a person or entity needs to take an action.
  • Both haber que and haber de are followed by infinitives.

Hay Que and Other Forms of Haber Que

Haber que is the more common, although it is used only in the third-person singular, which is hay que in the indicative present tense. In the present tense haber que is often translated as "it is necessary," although in context you might also translate it with phrases such as "you need to," "you should," "you have to," or "we need to." Note that the phrase hay que doesn't explicitly state who or what needs to take the action, only that it's necessary. But if the intended meaning points to who needs to take the action, that can be specified in the English translation. The phrase is followed by an infinitive, the most basic verb form.

  • A veces hay que perder para ganar. (Sometimes it is necessary to lose in order to win.)
  • Para ser doctor, hay que estudiar mucho. (In order to be a doctor, you need to study a lot.)
  • No hay que comprar un móvil a un niño antes de los 12 ó 13 años. (It isn't necessary to buy a cellphone for children before they're 12 or 13.)
  • Se queremos hijos felices hay que enseñarle a navegar en tempestades. (If we want happy children, we need to teach them to navigate through turmoil.)
  • Hay que comer solo cuando tengamos hambre. (We should eat only when we're hungry.)
  • Hay muchos libros que hay que leer. (There are many books that need to be read.)
  • No es suficiente criticar al presidente, ¡hay que votar! (It isn't enough to criticize the president — you need to vote!)

Haber que can also be used in other tenses and the subjunctive mood:

  • Esta vez había que ganar. (This time it was necessary to win.)
  • Hubo que esperar 30 años. (It was necessary to wait 30 years.)
  • Tarde o temprano va a haber que pagarlo. (Sooner or later it is going to be necessary to pay it.)
  • El gobierno cambiará lo que haya que cambiar. (The government will change what needs to be changed.)
  • Nunca pensé que hubiera que decir eso. (I never thought it would be necessary to say this.)

Haber De

Haber de can be used with a similar meaning, although this use is usually fairly formal or literary. Haber is conjugated fully, not confined to the third person in the way haber que is.

  • ¿Qué he de estudiar para poder escribir libros? (What do I need to study in order to be able to write books?)
  • Has de pensar en tu vida. (You need to think about your life.)
  • Hemos de determinar el número de gramos de nitrógeno que hemos de obtener. (We have to determine the number of grams of nitrogen we need.)

In some areas, haber de also can express probability in much the same way that "have to" (or sometimes "must") in English can express likelihood rather than obligation:

  • Aquí ha de caer la lluvia. (Rain must have fallen here.)
  • La solución al problema ha de ser difícil. (The solution to the problem must be difficult.)
  • Has de ser rica. (You must be rich.)

Finally, haber de in the conditional tense can be used, especially in questions, to express the idea that something doesn't make sense:

  • ¿Por qué no habría de darle la mano a la reina? (Asked not to get information, but to express amazement: Why shouldn't he shake hands with the queen?)
  • ¿Por qué el universo habría de tomarse la molestia de existir? (Why would the universe go to the bother of existing?)
  • ¿Por qué habían de creer la verdad, si la mentira resultaba mucho más excitante? (Why should they have believed the truth, if the lie turned out to be much more exciting?)
  • ¿Quién habría de hacer eso en Panamá? (Said in an incredulous tone: Who would do that in Panama?)
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Your Citation
Erichsen, Gerald. "Using ‘Haber Que’ and ‘Haber Que’." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Erichsen, Gerald. (2020, August 27). Using ‘Haber Que’ and ‘Haber Que’. Retrieved from Erichsen, Gerald. "Using ‘Haber Que’ and ‘Haber Que’." ThoughtCo. (accessed February 9, 2023).