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If I have to say something like I gotta leave in Spanish, I'd use a phrase like:

Tengo que irme

But I realize that I could also say:

Necesito irme

What is the difference? You would translate them as I have to go and I need to go I believe, but is there any connatational difference greater than what I've said?

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I haven't heard "necesito" in that context. However, another one widely used is "debo irme" (I ought to go) or "debería irme" (I should go). – vartec Dec 12 '11 at 17:45
Another perfect example of why "word choice" is not a great tag name. "necesitar" is a word but "tener que" is a phrase. – hippietrail Dec 12 '11 at 19:39
We could also ask about "hay que" along with these two... – hippietrail Dec 12 '11 at 19:39
"Hay que irnos"? – César Dec 12 '11 at 21:08
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Both phrases are correct but the use of these phrases depend on the context. Imagine you're in a party and you have to work or do some homework for the next day. You will normally use:

Tengo que irme (because I have to work!)

Now imagine you feel kinda sick in the party or maybe you saw your girlfriend cheating on you. You won't feel confortable in that party so you will use:

  • Necesito irme (because I don't want people see me crying!)
  • Necesito irme (I need some fresh air)

So you see, the last ones are something like "I need the get out of this place". And yes the translations are correct:

  • I have to go — Tengo que irme.
  • I need to go — Necesito irme.
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