How formal is “hay que” in spanish?
Hi there! I'm a native Spanish speaker.
The short answer is not much.
"Hay que" literally translates into "have to" in phrases like "My sister has to finish school" \U0001f449 "Mi hermana tiene que terminar la escuela".
On the other hand, when there is no subject it express a need or a must-do, "Para ser un buen pianista hay que practicar mucho" \U0001f449 "To be a good pianist one must practice a lot".
First of all, I guess you know the difference between "tú" and "usted" as the informal and formal versions of "you".
Well you need to always use "usted" in speaking or writing Spanish in order to be formal.
Keep that on mind.
How can you make your sentences more formal? "hay que" with a subject represents obligation, but it is too rude to use that when you're talking to older people, teachers, acquaintances, etc.
, so you have to say things like "Su esposa debe someterse a operación" instead of "Tu esposa tiene que someterse a la operación" which would mean the same as the difference between "Your wife ought to undergo surgery" and "Your wife has to undergo surgery".
Also, notice the shift from "su" a "tu" in formal and informal sentences respectively.
In sentences without subject however, which are also like universal advise, "hay que" is formal.
though you can use subjects to make them even more formal! For example, the sentence above "Para ser un buen pianista hay que practicar mucho" is more formal if you say "Para ser un buen pianista usted necesita/tiene que practicar mucho" \U0001f449 "To be a good pianist you need to/have to practice a lot".
I hope this helps! I include the use if "tener que" because it goes hand in hand with "hay que".
"Hay que" doesn't translate to "you ought to" or "you should".
Its correct translation would be "It is necessary that".
It's an impersonal construction with no subject.
It conjugates as a third person singular, and there it cannot suffer from any T-V distinction.
The form hay que and its variations in other tenses can be used in any register, from colloquial to formal to literary.
It follows the conjugation of the verb haber, with just the 3rd person singular, and with a special case for the present, different than the regular present of haber:
Present: hay que (not *ha que, what one would expect from haber)
Preterite: hubo que
Imperfect: había que
Future: habrá que
Present perfect: ha habido que
Past anterior: hubo habido que
Past pluperfect: había habido que
Future perfect: habrá habido que
Simple: habría que
Perfect: habría habido que
Present: haya que
Imperfect: hubiera/hubiese que
Future*: hubiere que
Present perfect: haya habido que
Past pluperfect: hubiera/hubiese habido que
Future*: hubiere habido que
There's no imperative for this form.
The subjunctive futures are mostly used just in legalese nowadays.
You can find an example of hubiere habido que in this document from the Dominican Republic senate:
There is a flaw in you question.
"Hay que aprender inglés" translates into "One has to learn English"
"Habría que aprender inglés" translates into "One should learn English"
Both are impersonal.
Note the difference when not impersonal:
"You ought to help me.
" translates into "Tendrías que ayudarme.
" (a wish)
"You should help me" translates into "¡(Claro que) Tendrías que ayudarme!" (an instruction or menace)
You can use this construction whenever you want, and it has also the advantage that it is used in impersonal sencences, so you can avoid the use of the subjects tú/usted if you are not sure about which one is the best option.
I you want to use it in a more polite way, use the conditional (habría que), so the sentence implies a suggestion, instead of an order.