Grammar Tuesdays (with Joanna): Don’t have to vs. Mustn’t


Do not have to (or don’t have to) means that you do not need to do something, but you can.

Must not (or mustn’t) means that you’re not allowed to do something. You cannot do it.


You don’t have to answer the bonus question. (You don’t need to answer it, but you can if you’d like.)

You mustn’t text and drive. (You’re not allowed to text while driving. / You can’t text while driving. It’s against the law.)

texting and driving

Try it. Choose don’t have to or mustn’t.

You _____________________________ help him with the project, but he’d appreciate it if you did.

Students ________________________ use calculators during the math test. They have to complete all calculations on paper.

We _____________________ enter this area. There is a sign that says “No trespassing.”

I ______________________ work on my paper today. It’s not due until next Friday. Let’s go to the beach!

Did you get it right? Here’s the answer key:

don’t have to / mustn’t / mustn’t / don’t have to


Joanna Rodzen-Hickey

Joanna Rodzen-Hickey has been an ESL teacher and consultant for nearly 20 years. She has taught English at numerous universities and community colleges in New Jersey and currently teaches at the Hackettstown High School in Hackettstown, NJ.

Get the Most Out of Online Learning: Tips and Tricks!

By Dr. Ken Beatty

What’s your secret?

You probably already have special tips or tricks that makes online learning easier and more efficient. These strategies help you enjoy learning English. But strategies are personal and you need to choose ones that work for you. Read the list and number them in order, most useful (1) to least useful (10).

__ Create audio flashcards: You may already use paper flashcards, but you can also create audio ones. Use your phone to record new vocabulary and definitions. Leave a few seconds or more between each one to repeat and recall the definitions. For verbs, you can also say the different forms, To Be: I am, she is, we are, and so on.  

__ Create your own test questions: During classes and while you study, make it a habit to write possible test questions. If the exam asks your question, you win. But even if your question doesn’t show up on a test, writing questions helps you focus on what’s important.

__ Draw: The textbook StartUp features graphic organizers in each unit to help organize your ideas. Use different graphical organizers when you take notes: a timeline for dates, a flow chart for processes, a Gantt chart for stages. Here’s an example from StartUp Level 3, Unit 10, a Venn Diagram for taking notes about overlapping ideas:

__ Improve your memory: Ask yourself, “What are three things you’ll never forget?” Now ask, “Why won’t I forget them?” The reason is probably because they’re important to you, often because they’re exciting or they are useful. Improve your English vocabulary memory by making new words important to you. Think of how each new word could be exciting or useful.  

Elephants have incredible memories

__ Spread ideas across skills: When you read or listen to something new, you will understand it better if you write about it or talk about it. When you spread new vocabulary, grammar and other ideas in English across skills, they’re also easier to remember.

__ Pearson Practice English App: Use the Pearson Practice English app to use spare minutes at different times throughout the day. Review audio and video content and complete grammar and vocabulary tasks. 

__ Stretch: Find out more about the topics you’re learning about. Search online and share what you learn with other students.  

__ Write notes by hand: Even if you get a recording after a lesson, it’s important to write notes by hand. Unlike typing notes or rewatching a recording, when you write notes by hand, it forces your brain to summarize ideas and makes them more memorable. After, always compare notes with another student to see what each of you thought was important and what you missed.

__ Write questions you want to ask: You likely have this problem when you listen to someone speak: you want to know something more but you don’t have a chance to interrupt. By the time you can ask, you may have forgotten the question. If you don’t have time to ask a question, write it down. It’s also a good idea while you’re reading. Sometimes the question is answered a few minutes later, but writing questions helps you remember what you need to understand.

__ Use it or lose it: Look for opportunities to use English and rehearse what you would say in your mind. Even if you don’t have to say the words, it’s useful practice.

student concentrating

Learning English is a lifetime process. Use strategies to make that learning more enjoyable.

Ken teaches teachers and writes textbooks. His most recent books are in the LEAP series and he is Series Consultant for StartUp. He’s given hundreds of teacher-training sessions and conference presentations in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, England, Guatemala, Honduras Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Poland, Russia, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, the USA, and Vietnam.