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Hello! What's the difference in meaning between these examples:

Two friends. One notices that the other is going to water his garden and says to him:

a) You don't need to water the garden this evening. It's going to rain tonight.

b) You don't have to water the garden this evening. It's going to rain tonight.

Last edited by Alexey86
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Hi, Alexey86,

@Alexey86 posted:

Hello! What's the difference in meaning between these examples:

Two friends. One notices that the other is going to water his garden and says to him:

a) You don't need to water the garden this evening. It's going to rain tonight.

b) You don't have to water the garden this evening. It's going to rain tonight.

There is no big difference in meaning between a and b. 'Needn't' and 'don't need to' are preferred when the speaker is the one who decides the lack of necessity. 'Don't have to' is preferred when external rules or somebody's actions make something unnecessary. (Source: Advanced Grammar In Use)

Thank you, ahmed_btm! I'm really interested in subtleties and nuances. Let's consider several contexts:
1) The soil is dry and the garden plants are starting to wilt.
2) The plants are fine but they need daily watering.
3) The garden's owner promised his wife to water it in her absence.
4) Daily watering is the owner's habit.

If you were the owner's friend, what would be you choice in these contexts in "You don't____water the garden this evening. It's going to rain tonight."

Hi, Alexey86—The sentence duo "You don't need to water the garden this evening. It's going to rain tonight" states that there is no need for the hearer to water the garden because rain is imminent. In contrast, the sentence duo "You don't have to water the garden this evening. It's going to rain tonight" states that the speaker is not obligated to water the garden for the same reason. That said, in real life, it really doesn't matter which version you use.

Two friends: A (the garden's owner) and B (his friend). B notices that A is going to water the garden and says to him, "You don't____water the garden this evening. It's going to rain tonight."

Context 1: The soil is dry and the garden plants are starting to wilt. B sees that.

Context 2: The plants are fine but they need daily watering, and B knows that.

Context 3: Usually the owner's wife waters the garden, but she's away now and he promised her to water it. B knows that.

Context 4: Daily watering is the owner's habit or part of his daily routine and B knows that.

P.S. Maybe you could suggest contexts that would make a more clear distinction (not in general but for this particular example, "You don't____water the garden this evening. It's going to rain tonight").

Last edited by Alexey86

Please consider two situations:

1) I'm in a cafe with my friends. Suddenly, I feel really bad and say "I need to go to the hospital." If I feel fine, I don't need to go to the hospital.

2) I'm in a cafe with my friends. It's 4 p.m. And I say, "Sorry guys, I have to go. I made an appointment with a doctor for 5 p.m." = "If I hadn't made that appointment, I wouldn't have to go now."

Does this distinction make sense to you? Isn't "feel really bad" similar to "the plants are starting to wilt" (= If it weren't for the imminent rain, he would need to water them)?

Last edited by Alexey86

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