Expressing obligation

There are various ways to tell someone what they have to do or express an obligation.

1) When addressing a specific person:

  • Dovere (have to, must) dovere, presente + the infinitive:

Devi telefonare al ristorante entro le 19.

You must phone the restaurant before 7pm.

  • Bisogna che/occorre che (it's necessary that, it's essential that) + subjunctive:

Bisogna che / Occorre che tu ti riposi stasera. 

It is essential that you rest this evening.

  • È necessario che (it's necessary that) + subjunctive:

È necessario che voi parliate con Luisa.

You need to speak with Luisa (literally “It's necessary that you speak with Luisa”).

2) To express a general obligation or necessity, in other words, something that applies to everyone:

  • Bisogna/occorre (it's necessary, it's essential) + infinitive:

Quando il semaforo è rosso, occorre fermarsi.

When the traffic light is red, it is necessary to stop.

  • È necessario (it's necessary) + infinitive:

È necessario mangiare frutta e verdura ogni giorno.

It's necessary to eat fruit and vegetables every day.

3) To explain rules or standards of behavior, for example on information signs:

  • È obbligatorio (it's obligatory) + infinitive:

È obbligatorio fare la doccia prima di entrare in piscina. 

It's obligatory to have a shower before entering the pool. 

  • Essere essere, presente tenuti a (to be obliged, to be required) + infinitive (essere is conjugated to match the subject):

Gli ospiti sono tenuti a rispettare le regole. 

Guests are required to respect the rules.

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