Story Starters and Endings: A writing activity to practice “Must” and “Have To”

Level: Illustrated below for advanced students, but possible to modify the activity for lower level students. Simply limit the number of functions and forms the students are exposed to.

STEP 1 – Prepare your own short stories and/ or copy the ones below. Each one should either lack a beginning or an ending. A question using either must or have to should prompt students to compose missing information. The stories should collectively model the functions, strength, and different levels of formality of must and have to.

Model stories:

“The Worst Date Ever”

The evening was over, and Caroline couldn’t get into her house fast enough. She jumped out of the car, slammed the door, and didn’t look back. Peter quickly caught up with her, and cried, “Wait! Can I call you again?” Caroline’s eyes widened in surprise and then narrowed in anger. “No,” she said.

What must have happened on Caroline and Peter’s date?


“Roommate Wanted”

Mike and Frank are roommates. Mike gets upset when Frank leaves the lights on after leaving a room, throws away food that’s only half-eaten, and takes long showers, which leaves little hot water for Mike’s shower. Mike has asked Frank to be careful about not wasting things, but Frank doesn’t seem to care.

How can Mike get Frank to understand he has to save food and resources, not waste them?



Gina applied for a teaching position at a college. She was told that her one year of experience wasn’t enough. They were looking for someone with at least four more years of classroom experience. She wants to prove she can do the job, and wonders how to secure an interview.

How many years must candidates have worked to be qualified for the position?


“Wrong Attire”

Leo walks into the office, and all the heads turn. A few do their best not to laugh, but most of the workers simply look shocked. Leo’s best friend and co-worker quickly walks up to him and whispers, “What’s going on? Where’s the usual shirt and tie?”

What must Leo be wearing to make everyone respond this way?


“Meeting VIPs”

Thomas was excited to be in the same room with so many important people. He had already shaken hands with the Vice-President of the United States. Now he was about to greet a princess. He’d never spoken to royalty before. He suddenly got nervous since he didn’t know how exactly to greet her.

Does Thomas have to bow to the princess, or can he offer his hand?

[Note: It takes time to create these short situations, but you most certainly can recycle this activity with another group.]


STEP 2 – Students may work individually or in pairs to answer the questions in written form. Pair work nicely integrates speaking skills into the activity, but solo work would require each student to demonstrate his or her understanding of the target verbs.

Model [Based on story above]

“The Worst Date Ever”

Peter must have done something that really upset Caroline. He probably said something rude, or maybe he was too friendly with the waitress at the restaurant where he and Caroline had dinner.


STEP 3 – Have volunteers read the stories and their answers to the  questions. Allow different variations to be shared.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Uninvoked says:

    “The Worst Date Ever” His ex must have shown up, and told her all about him.

    “Roommates” Mike has to throw out Frank’s cigarettes, and keep throwing them out, until he complies.

    “No-Go” Candidates must have worked five years, if we are to believe the situation is inflexible and that she can’t secure the job through creative use of mind and talent.

    “Wrong Attire”

    He must be wearing a custom made t-shirt mooning the boss. ^^

    “Meeting VIPs”

    That really depends on what country the princess comes from and who he is. “Princess” is too vague. Assuming it is your standard British princess and he is an American, he shouldn’t bow. Americans do not have to bow or curtsy because, frankly, they aren’t our royals. As for the hand…that’s a no go also. “Never attempt to touch royalty”. Wait till she extends her hand.

    I’ll write some stories at some point, just for fun. ^^

    1. englishwithjennifer says:

      I admit I’m amused by some of your ideas. 🙂 I also think Gina has to try to secure an interview with cleverness, and that one mustn’t touch royalty.
      (I added the boldfacing to your ideas to illustrate uses of the targeted verbs.)

      1. Uninvoked says:

        It’s kind of interesting how instinctive grammar is. I didn’t realize I’d used what you were looking for. I just answered the questions.

        Now if only you can find a way for me to tell effect and affect apart. I know one is a noun and one is a verb. I never remember which I want when I’m writing. >.<

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