Ought To vs Have To: Difference and Comparison

The words ‘Ought to’ and ‘Have to’ are modal auxiliary words in English grammar. Both these words are used widely by people living in different countries using English as their medium of communication.

Key Takeaways

  1. “Ought to” expresses a moral obligation or duty, while “have to” expresses a necessity or requirement.
  2. “Ought to” is used to give advice or make recommendations, while “have to” describes a situation with no other option.
  3. “Ought to” suggests a personal choice or preference, while “have to” implies an external requirement or obligation.

Ought To vs Have To

When someone has to say something in a Sentence in a way to obligate eternally, then the word ‘have to’ is to be used, and on the other hand, when someone wants to give any advice or request in place of the word, should then ‘Ought to’ is supposed to be used. 

Ought To vs Have To

The word ‘Ought to‘ is a modal auxiliary verb. This word sometimes is used in replacement of the word should.

The word ‘Have to’ is a modal auxiliary verb. This verb is used in replacement of the word need to.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonOught ToHave To
FunctionThis word is used to obligate someone.This word is used when someone wants to advise someone.
How is it usedThe word ‘Ought to’ isn’t that commonly used by people.The word ‘Have to’ is commonly used by people.
Types of communicationThe word ‘Ought to’ is used more in written communication.The word ‘Have to’ is used in spoken and written communication.
TypeThe word ‘ought’ is a semi-modal verb.The word ‘have to’ is a modal auxiliary verb.
Degree The degree of intensity of doing something where ‘Ought to’ is used is less.The degree of intensity of doing something where ‘Have to’ is used is more in a sentence.

What is Ought To?

The word ‘Ought to’ is a modal auxiliary verb. People replace this word with the word should.

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This word is stated as a semi-modal verb. This means this word can be used as a modal and main verb.

The following are some examples where the word ‘Ought to’ is used in a sentence-

  1. Isn’t this ought to happen at this point?
  2. She ought to study as her exams are Coming near.
  3. Everyone ought to do more exercise and yoga daily.
  4. Sanitary napkins ought to be free here.

What is Have To?

The word ‘Have to’ is a modal auxiliary verb. This verb is used in replacement of the word need to.

This word states that someone has to do specific work compulsorily. This word is the present tense of the word had to.

Following are some examples where the word ‘Have to’ is used in a sentence-

  1. We have to go to the party tomorrow.
  2. I have to attend the meeting tomorrow.
  3. You have to finish eating before time from now on.
  4. They will have to study to pass the exam.

Main Differences Between Ought To and Have To

  1. When someone wants to show a sense of obligation, the word ‘Ought to’ is used, and on the other hand, when someone wants to give advice or ask for permission, the term ‘Have to’ is used.
  2. The word ‘Ought to’ isn’t that commonly used by people; on the other hand, the word ‘Have to’ is used commonly by people.
  3. The degree of intensity of doing something where ‘Ought to’ is used is less in a sentence, and on the other hand, the degree of power of doing something where ‘Have to’ is used is more in a sentence.
  4. The word ‘Ought to’ is used more in written communication, and on the other hand, the word ‘Have to’ is used in both spoken and written communication.
  5. Ought to be a semi-modal verb; however, the word Have to is a modal auxiliary verb.
Difference Between Ought To and Have To
References
  1. https://www.jstor.org/stable/2252826
  2. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-349-15336-7_13
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Last Updated : 11 June, 2023

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11 thoughts on “Ought To vs Have To: Difference and Comparison”

  1. The comparison of ‘ought to’ and ‘have to’ here is quite thorough and enlightening. Useful for learners of the English language.

    Reply
  2. Interesting, I do believe ‘ought to’ is less commonly used, but it carries a lot of weight when it comes to moral obligation.

    Reply
    • Indeed, it does. While ‘have to’ is used more often, ‘ought to’ has a unique significance that should not be overlooked.

      Reply
  3. While ‘ought to’ may not be as commonly used, its role in expressing moral obligation should not be understated, as this article rightly highlights.

    Reply
  4. There seems to be a clear distinction between ‘ought to’ and ‘have to’ with regards to a sense of obligation and degrees of intensity.

    Reply
  5. This post seems to emphasize the degree of intensity in using ‘ought to’ versus ‘have to.’ However, I find this point debatable.

    Reply
  6. This article seems to stress that ‘ought to’ is used less frequently. Could it be due to cultural or regional differences?

    Reply

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