As I understand it, hay que means something like "one should" or "one has to" in English. However, with no hay que I'm not so sure. Does it mean:

  1. One shouldn't
  2. One doesn't have to

The difference being that the first is more of an instruction not to do something, whereas the second means that it is simply not necessary.

  • Is there any specific context? Without any context I would say the latter.
    – clinch
    Nov 10, 2014 at 17:17
  • I wasn't thinking of any in particular, although the fact that it varies is interesting!
    – Tom Fenech
    Nov 10, 2014 at 17:22

1 Answer 1


It means One doesn't have to or you don't need to when is followed by the preposition para. It means you should not when is not followed by it.

No hay que ser un genio para entender las instrucciones de IKEA (No hace falta ser un genio para entenderlo)/ you don't need to be a genius to understand it.

No hace falta ser muy fuerte para doblarlo.

No necesitas agitarlo antes de usarlo (o para usarlo) pero podrías hacerlo si quisieras/ you don't need or have to shake it before using it, but you could do it if you wanted to.

No deberías agitarlo antes de usarlo (estropea el resultado)/ You shouldn't shake it before using it.

  • Would that be another option to add to the list of possibilities, or is that the only meaning in your opinion?
    – Tom Fenech
    Nov 10, 2014 at 17:28
  • 3
    I think the key here is the para, that certainly gets rid of the ambiguity. In some regions (if not everywhere) it should be possible to say stuff like "No hay que ser cruel con las mascotas" and it would absolutely take the first meaning of the OP not the second one.
    – clinch
    Nov 10, 2014 at 17:37
  • @clinch, thank you, you are right. I added that to improve my answer.
    – Diego
    Nov 10, 2014 at 18:02

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