‘Haber De’ vs ‘Haber Que’ in Spanish: What’s the Difference?
When you start studying Spanish, you learn the verb haber quite early, and it doesn’t seem very complicated. However, later things start to change.
Apparently, it’s enough to add small words such as “de” or “que” to “haber to get a different meaning. But the meaning doesn’t always change! Why? What’s the rule?
If you’re one of the desperate learners trying to untangle the mysteries of haber de vs haber que, you got to the right place.
I’ll explain to you how the meaning of haber changes when used with de and que. I promise lots of examples of haber que and haber de in context.
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Meanings of ‘Haber’ in Spanish
When you want to check the translation of haber from Spanish to English in a dictionary, you might be surprised by very different options you’ll get. Not only do different translations come up, but it seems that you may use this verb in various ways.
Let’s see t haber vs haber de vs haber que and how the meaning and the way you use them in a sentence may vary.
Haber: To Exist
The first meaning of the verb haber that you learn is “to exist.” It is impersonal in this meaning, and you only need to learn the conjugation of the third person singular in different tenses.
Hay un carro estacionado delante de mi puerta.
There is a cart parked in front of my door.
¡No hay leche! ¿Quién puede ir de compras?
There’s no milk! Who can go shopping?
Ayer hubo una tormenta.
There’s no milk! Who can go shopping?
Mañana no habrá clases.
Tomorrow there will be no school.
As you can see the sentence structure is a bit weird as the subject comes after the verb. However, you can also use haber as an auxiliary verb in compound sentences, and then the sentence structure changes.
Subject + conjugated haber + past participle
In this case, you’ll translate the verb haber into the English auxiliary verb “to have.”
Te lo he dicho.
I have told you.
Nunca ha llovido tanto.
It has never rained so much.
Yo la había visto antes de conocer a su hermano.
I had seen her before I met her brother.
A esa hora ya habrán acabado de trabajar.
By that time they will have finished work.
If you want to learn the complete haber conjugation, check this article: Haber Conjugation: Free Spanish Lesson, Exercises, and PDF or here.
Haber de: Have to / Must
What happens if you add a preposition de to the verb haber? What does haber de mean?
Haber de in Spanish expresses obligation and translates into “have to” and “must.” But what about tener que?, you might be asking. You’re right, but when you compare he de vs tengo que, you’ll see that haber de is much more formal and sounds old. You may hear it in church or in other religious contexts.
You can listen to this song on Spotify Porque No He De Alabar a Dios (Why should I not Praise God), by Levitas.
Haber in combination with de is a verb phrase, in which haber is fully conjugated; it can come in any grammatical person form and the verb phrase must be followed by an infinitive:
Subject + conjugated haber + de + infinitive
He de esforzarme más.
I must try harder.
Has de amar a tu esposa.
You must love your wife.
Hemos de obedecer a los mayores.
We must obey our elders.
The same as English “must” and “have to,” the verb phrase haber de might express probability and likelihood.
Han de tener mucho dinero si manejan un coche así.
They must have a lot of money if they drive a car like that.
Ha de ser difícil trabajar por las noches.
It must be difficult to work at night.
You can also use the phrasal verb haber de conjugated in the conditional tense questions, to express that something doesn’t make much sense to you.
¿Por qué habría de creerte si ya me has mentido tantas veces?
Why should I believe you if you have already lied to me so many times?
¿Por qué te habría de hacer caso?
Why should I listen to you?
¿Por qué habrías de hacerlo si no quieres?
Why should you do it if you don’t want to?
Watch out for the cases when the verb haber is followed by a preposition de but does not form a verb phrase:
¿Qué hay de nuevo?
No hay de que.
Haber que: It’s necessary / You should / One should
Haber que in English is often translated into “it is necessary,” or “you should,” “one should,” and similar. It’s also a verb phrase followed by an infinitive. It is an impersonal verb and a subject does not precede it.
haber que + infinitive
This verb phrase is more common than haber de and you’ll hear it all the time.
No hay que llorar, que la vida es un carnaval.
There is no need to cry, life is a carnival.
Hay que apurarnos, ya es tarde.
We must hurry, it’s already late.
No hay que hacer nada, solo esperemos.
No need to do anything, let’s just wait.
Hay tanto que hacer aquí.
There is so much to do here.
Mañana habrá que salir temprano.
Tomorrow we’ll have to leave early.
Hubo que esperar dos siglos para que el país se hiciera libre otra vez.
It took two centuries for the country to become free again.
Watch out, as que can be also used as a conjunction in a sentence and can appear after the verb haber but not as a part of a verb phrase:
Qué mejor ejemplo de obediencia podría haber que de este perro que duerme al lado de la tumba de su amo.
What better example of obedience could there be than this dog sleeping next to his master’s grave?
As you can see, the verb haber here appears as an impersonal verb that means “to be,” “to exist,” and is not being used as a verb phrase meaning “it’s necessary.”
Haber de vs Haber que: Wrap up
Let’s have a look at a quick summary:
- Means “to be”, “to exist” and is only used in 3rd person singular.
- Appears in compound sentences as an auxiliary verb and translates into “have”
Haber de + infinitive
- Very formal, and old-fashioned
- A verb phrase that means “must”, “should”, “have to”
- It can transmit probability and likelihood
- In Conditional questions, It can express something that doesn’t make sense to the speaker
Haber que + infinitive
- A verb phrase used in the third person form to express necessity or obligation
- More commonly used than haber de
Practice Haber de vs Haber que In Conversation
I know that it all looks easy in theory but to use it correctly in a Spanish conversation is a different story.
If you have nobody to practice haber de vs haber que, sign up for a free trial class with Homeschool Spanish Academy.
We teach over 40,000 classes a month and provide native Spanish instruction and anxiety-free experience & ease of learning. No payments or credit card details are required to sign up for your trial lesson and practice the verb haber in different combinations. And who knows, maybe you’ll see how much you love online Spanish learning!
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