I am trying to fully understand these words in English language (I know this is a Russian Stack Exchange site but I think this is a proper place to ask this question). So in Russian you can say: - Я должен сделать что-то (I must? Should?) - Мне нужно сделать что-то (I need?) - Я обязан сделать что-то - Мне необходимо сделать что-то - Мне следует сделать что-то (should?) And I am not quite sure what English words I need to use for these situations and also if they are directly translatable (as must is always = должен?). Appreciate any feedback and clarification.

  • 2
    You should take a proper English grammar exercise book and study the topic. There is no need asking it here. :) Murphey will do.
    – Elena
    Commented Feb 23, 2019 at 7:23
  • Actually exactly Murphy textbook led me, I know what is meaning of these words and how you use them but not exactly understand connection with Russian. As an example (from Murphy) - "She should be here by now", "That man on the motorbike should be wearing a helmet." - You can say "Она уже должна была быть тут" but you don't say in this situation, "Мужчина на мотоцикле должен быть одет в шлем" but more like "Мужчине следует быть в шлеме". And also "You should apologise" is more like "Тебе следует извиниться" (this is a good thing to do), but not "Ты должен извиниться" (or I will punch you). Commented Feb 23, 2019 at 7:45
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    There is no one-to one-correspondence between languages, so, to speak proper English you have to understand it first, but then to exercise exactly the English cases of using modal verbs. In Russian most modal words are not verbs at all, and usability is different.
    – Elena
    Commented Feb 23, 2019 at 8:29

1 Answer 1


The topic is too vast to cover it here. The simplistic answer would be

must = обязан / должно быть
need = нужно / надо / необходимо
should = следует / следовало бы
have to = должен

Often must and have to would be synonymous if applied to oneself as in I must go = I have to go and mean должен.

There's also nowadays rarely used ought to which i believe is mostly synonymous with should.

And also often there won't be a one to one or consistent translation of the modal words because their use cases in two languages may differ. The more idiomatic translation of the above mentioned I must go = I have to go into Russian in my opinion would be мне нужно/надо идти rather than я должен идти, despite the use of must/have to in the original.

  • Okay as I read through more examples I see that these words a less connected than I thought before, thanks for the feedback. Commented Feb 23, 2019 at 7:50
  • @Alexey Demidov sure Commented Feb 23, 2019 at 7:51
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    Have to often has the meaning вынужден/придётся.
    – Alex_ander
    Commented Feb 23, 2019 at 12:20
  • I'd say that "need" and "have to" are more related to some external circumstances. And "ought to" lays between "must" and "should".
    – Alissa
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 11:03

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