Ter de vs. ter que

Hi all! Is there a difference in the strength/sense of necessity implied with use of ter de + inf vs. ter que + inf?

My own perceptions from context towards ter que are that it infers personal/moral obligation, while ter de infers something strong- more like . compulsory compliance & insistence. Am I understanding this correctly?

I asked my tutor about this. TLDR: You can use either and it’s all the same.

Long version: It was traditionally “ter + de”, which is in line with most Latin-based languages, but at some point people started using “ter + que”. There were a lot of debates at that point in time because traditionalists and grammar pedants didn’t like it. But the trend continued and now it’s part of the language.

Personally, I prefer “ter + de” because I’ve already learnt French and that’s how it works there. My brain’s already hardwired. Use whichever you feel like.

That’s perfect, @gautam.newalkar. Indeed, “ter + de” is supposed to be more correct, but at this point, most people will use them both without even thinking about it. There’s no extra depth to either of them when used interchangeably.

If we were to use them exactly as prescribed, we would have to use only “ter de” to describe the neecessity or obligation of doing something/something happening. In this case, “ter” works as an auxiliary verb in the sentence.


  • Eu tenho de estudar (I have to study). And you could also say: Eu preciso de estudar.
  • Eu tenho de fazer estas coisas (I have to do these things). And you could also say: Eu preciso de fazer estas coisas

On the other hand, “ter que” would only be used in contexts where “ter” is the main verb in the sentence and “que” is not actually coupled to it, but to whatever verb comes next. That’s because when you use “de”, the sentence structure goes like this in English: “I have to do [noun]”. When you use “que”, the sentence structure is actually “I have [noun] to do”, but the noun here may be omitted. The latter also makes it possible to abruptly end the sentence with a verb that would usually require an object right after it.


  • Eu tenho que estudar (I have [things] to study)

    • It’s the invisible noun that makes it hard to distinguish between this and the other example with “de”. We can make it more evident by saying “Eu tenho o que estudar” or even “Eu tenho coisas que estudar”/“Eu tenho coisas para estudar”.
  • Eu tenho que fazer (I have [things] to do)

    • Again, we could say “Eu tenho o que fazer” or “Eu tenho coisas que fazer”. Note how the sentence just ends at “fazer” (to do), when normally this would beg the question “To do what?”.

This is the best I can explain it and it still won’t make you instantly master this. I keep saying this, but really, Portuguese is messed up. Just… Good luck to all of you. I will be praying :smile: