Spanish ConstitutionA day like today, 39 years ago, Spain started its transition from a dictatorship towards a democracy with a new constitution. After hard negotiations and efforts, Spaniards left their differences aside and decided to build a common place to live together.

Nowadays, those differences have surfaced again stronger and stronger. The Catalan independence movement and the failed referendum in October have put our constitution in the spotlight.

Is it out-dated? Should we reform it? Maybe repeal it an write a new one? These are questions we are not going to answer here. While the constitution is applicable, we have to claim our rights and obey our duties collected in our main law. Therefore, we are going to learn today some of the basic ways of expressing obligation in Spanish.

Tener + que + infinitivo

It’s maybe the most used one. It means an obligation and, sometimes, a need. This obligation is absolute and it’s caused by a situation; it’s usually urgent. For example: tengo que buscar un trabajo porque necesitamos dinero en casa (I have to find a job because we need more money at home).

Deber + infinitivo

We express a moral or ethical obligation; something that comes from the speaker himself or the society. It’s maybe less strong than tener que. For example: debo buscar un trabajo porque ya tengo 25 años (I must find a job because I’m already 25).

Don’t get confuse using deber + de + infinitive. This expression means probability (deben de ser las 3 – it might be 3 o’clock).

Haber + de + infinitivo

This structure is very similar to tener que + infinitivo. It expresses an important obligation or a requirement but in a more formal register. You can find it in legal and administrative language and literature. For example: las personas que deseen obtener la nacionalidad española han de acreditar un nivel A2 de español (people who want to get Spanish nationality have to provide evidence of at least A2-level in Spanish).

Haber + que + infinitivo

This is an impersonal form. There is no subject in the sentence; in consequence, the obligation is not expected to be obeyed by any specific person, but by any of them. For example: el césped está muy alto. Hay que cortarlo (the lawn is too long. It must to be cut).

Ser + obligatorio / necesario + infinitivo

It’s another impersonal construction. You can find it in more formal situations than haber + que + infinitivo. Its usage is close to haber + de + infinitivo, but in an impersonal way. Again you will find it in legal contracts, laws and administrative forms. For example: para inscribirse en este examen es obligatorio ser español (for the exam enrollment, it’s required to be Spanish).

Too many rules, duties and obligations you could say. Well, if you want to get the Spanish nationality tienes que obtener el nivel A2 de español and in order to achieve that hay que aprender español with a good teacher. Do you want to try a free trial lesson with the best ones? Don’t hesitate: learn Spanish via Skype, at home, at your own pace. If you finally want to take the DELE Exam, on you will find a Preparation for DELE Exams Course to help you to succeed.


Picture: Constitucion_espanola_1978 by miguelazo84 @Wikipedia