Chinese Words for Must/Have to: 必须(bìxū) or 必须要(bìxūyào), 得(děi) , 要(yào)

By Sujanti Djuanda – LingoLearn Chinese Teacher   

I. The auxiliary verb 必须(bìxū=must) or 必须要(bìxūyào) is used in front of the main verb to indicate a strong obligation, such as someone commands people to do something and they must do it.

必须(bìxū=must) or 必须要(bìxūyào) is often used in more formal situation. It means, it can be used in colloquial but more often used in written language.

Example 1:

Every day you must get up at 6 o’clock and go to bed before 9 o’clock.

你(nǐ)每天(měi​tiān) 必须(bìxū) (or 必须要(bìxūyào)) 6(liù)点(diǎn)起床(qǐ​chuáng),9(jiǔ)点前(qián)睡觉(shuì​jiào)。

Example 2:

Every day you must arrive school at 8am, arrive home before 4 pm.

你(nǐ)每天(měi​tiān)必须(bìxū) (or 必须要(bìxūyào))早上(zǎoshang)8(bā)点(diǎn)到(dào)学校(xuéxiào),下午(xiàwǔ)4(sì)点前(qián)到家(jiā)。

Example 3:

You must study for half a year, only then to be able to get your salary.

你(nǐ)必须(bìxū) (or 必须要(bìxūyào))学习(xuéxí)半年(bànnián)才能拿到(nádào)工资(gōng​zī)。

Example 4:

The current discussion forum is very important, everyone must come.

这次(zhècì=this time)讲习会(jiǎng​xí​huì)​​很(hěn)重要(zhòng​yào),大家(dàjiā)必须(bìxū) (or 必须要(bìxūyào))来(lái)。

II. The auxiliary verb 得(děi=have to) is softer (less stronger) than 必须(bìxū) and often used in more formal situation.

Example1 :

I have to leave now. (softer than 必须(要))


Compare with Example 2:

I must leave now (stronger)

我(wǒ)必须(bìxū) or 必须要(bìxūyào)走(zǒu)了(le)。

Example 3:

We have to set out at six.


Compare with Example 4:

We must set out at six.

我们(wǒ​men) 必须(bìxū) or 必须要(bìxūyào)6(liù)点(diǎn)出发(chūfā)。

III. 要(yào=have to) is almost always informal.要 is softest, compared with 必须(bì​xū) and 得(děi).

Example 1:

I have to go work this weekend.


Compare with Example 2:

I must go to work this weekend. (stronger)

我(wǒ)这(zhè)个(gè)周末(zhōumò) 必须(bìxū) or 必须要(bìxūyào)上班(shàngbān)。

Compare with Example 3:

I have to work this weekend. (softer than 必须)


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