What does GOT TO mean?

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GOT TO comes from HAVE GOT TO which is a variation of HAVE TO, and all three are used when talking about OBLIGATION. They are similar to MUST in meaning.
If your wife, husband, mother, father or doctor tells you to go to the dentist, you are obliged to do it. Then you may say:
 

  • I have to go to the dentist.
  • I have got to go to the dentist.
  • I got to go to the dentist.

 
Is there a difference?
 
Yes, there is.
In formal writing, the preferred form is ‘have to’. ‘Have got to’ sounds more informal and ‘got to’ sounds more American. You may even see it spelt as ‘gotta’ in informal contexts such as comic strips.
 
Here are some examples for you:
 

  • I have to fix the time machine, otherwise, we’ll be stuck here in the 1st century BC.
  • I’ve got to fix the time machine, otherwise, we’ll be stuck here in the 1st century BC.
  • I got to fix the time machine, otherwise, we’ll be stuck here in the 1st century BC.
  • Do you have to fix the time machine to get us back to the 21st century?
  • Have you got to fix the time machine to get us back to the 21st century?

 
note: do you have to / don’t have to are the preferred forms for interrogatives and negatives
Some more examples:

  • I have to talk to Dr Who first.
  • Why do you have to talk to him?
  • I’ve got to ask you a few questions before I say yes.
  • I don’t have to answer your questions, you’re not my mum.
  • She doesn’t have to answer your questions, you’re not her mum.
  • We don’t have to live in the 1st century BC if we don’t want to.
  • We’ve got to go back and talk to Julius Ceasar.
  • He’s got to help us.
  • Why does he have to help us?
  • A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.
  • Well, I got to go now.

 
 
To learn more about the differences between HAVE TO and MUST, click here:
I had to or I must? What is the difference?
 
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