Ought To vs Need To: Difference and Comparison

The verb or modal verbs, Ought to and need to still play a significant role in a student’s English class. Rather than coming up with a vast question, these small questions also matter in a person’s language skills.

Ought to phrase relates to the duty or obligation, whereas the need to is necessary. 

Key Takeaways

  1. “Ought to” indicate a moral obligation or duty one should fulfil based on societal norms or ethics.
  2. “Need to” denotes a requirement necessary for achieving a specific goal or task, based on personal or professional obligations.
  3. “Ought to” implies a sense of responsibility towards the community or the individual, while “need to” emphasize the importance of meeting specific objectives or targets.

Ought To vs Need To

The difference between Ought to and Need to is that Ought to means the indication of duty or obligation to do something, while Need to refers to the necessity or compulsory to do the thing. If you are still clueless about the insignificant differences between these two phrases, then here is one trick; Should, must, responsible, have to, reasoned and reasonable are examples of Ought to. Meanwhile, the words: want, desire, essential, necessary, needy, demand, required, and exigent replace Need to. 

Ought To vs Need To
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It ought to be mostly referred to as a verb, meaning showing or doing things with an obligation and good intention. It is used to criticise other’s activities. Moreover, apt for sentences that involve the desire in the past but not in the present.

In layman’s terms, it is used in a sentence to define something that you desire to happen but don’t. 

On the other hand, Need to is a verb and a noun used in a sentence with the purpose of necessity. There is no other go, but you must do the thing with an austere face. The phrase ‘need to’ is a verb that describes the constraint on something that someone has to do.

Meanwhile, as a noun, it is defined as a requirement, duty, demand, or urgent call. 

Comparison Table

Parameters of Comparison Ought ToNeed To 
Meaning It ought to be a neutral word when indicating a duty or obligation to someone’s action. Ought is considered a negative, as well as, positive verb and termed a Modal Verb.Need to be a verb and a noun that is essential or required to do something or someone. The need is a Modal verb- which impacts both terms. A need is a want or desire to achieve something.
IntroducedWilliam Oughtred, an English mathematician, invented the word “Ought to”, derived from his name Oughtred. The word needs to come from the root- Nauti. Ultimately, William Shakespeare used the word want, which is synonymous with Need.
Use in The word “Ought to” is used when you have an obligation or duty to do so in case of fulfilling any obligation or want to do.“Need to” is used when you want or require something or someone. Need to classify into many categories- food, education, and shelter.
Other namesShould, must, responsible, have to, reasoned and expedient. Want, desire, essential, necessary, needy, demand, required, and exigent.
ExampleI ought to calm my mother after the fight.I need to do the homework from getting chastised.

What is Ought To?

Ought to is a verb. It is used in sentences relating to something they desired to happen but didn’t. They ought to also be modal verbs describing the subject’s duty or correctness. 

The phrase ought to is always followed by another verb. Initially, the phrase ought to be brought to life in the 12th century as an auxiliary verb, in the 13th century as a verb, and in 1678 as a noun.  

There are many definitions for the word OUGHT, starting from the term used to express obligation, recommend ability, logical outcomes, and subjective expectation.

And each usage means different; the first two meanings come from the old English dictionary, defining transitive verbs like possess and owe. Secondly, the ought to phrase defines the duty or obligation of the action in the recent English dictionary.

For a better understanding, below is the example for Ought to the phrase:

  1. I ought to finish my work before 9 pm. 

This means it is my duty or obligation to complete my work before the clock hits 9 pm. 

  1. I ought to get up early to stay fit as a fiddle. 

The above sentence defines that I am talking about the things that I desire to do. 

What is Need To? 

Meanwhile, the Need to phrase is both a verb and modal verb that defines the necessity or requirement of the action that has to be done without any pretence. Frequently, a need to be used in a sentence with a negative impact.

It is used to express the action’s importance instead of the outline of duty. Unlike ought to, ‘need to’ has only one meaning: the necessity for the purpose. 

The ‘Need to’ phrase has been used since the origin of the English language, and there is no other change to the words yet. 

For instance, I need to find a house soon for my family. The sentence describes the necessity or importance of buying a house for her family to survive.

Main Differences Between Ought To and Need To

  1. ‘Ought to’ comes under the verb. On the other hand, the Need to is derived from a noun and a verb. 
  2. Ought to is used when you are in a state of obligation. Need to is used in case of any want or necessity you desire to achieve. 
  3. Ought to is a term where a task must or has to be done and needs to be something required to achieve the mission.
  4. Ought to synonyms are should, must, and practical. Need synonyms are wanted, required, essential, exigent and demand.
  5. Ought to be a short term used in everyday English, where people use the terms ‘Should’, ‘Must’, and ‘have-to instead of ‘Ought to’. Need to be a ubiquitous word used in daily life.
Difference Between Ought To and Need To
References
  1. https://books.google.co.in/books?hl=en&lr=&id=HYtmCgAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=meaning+of+ought+to&ots=fn-er1So_V&sig=VW0Tn8IEVBRfYrzOENVx_G4SL7I
  2. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1207/s15327965pli0704_2

Last Updated : 11 June, 2023

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24 thoughts on “Ought To vs Need To: Difference and Comparison”

  1. I found the post to be clear and concise, very helpful in understanding the significance of both these phrases in English language.

  2. The post was a great help to me. I was always confused about the difference between ‘Ought to’ and ‘Need to’.

  3. The post not only defines their meaning but provides an insightful comparative analysis of Need to and Ought to. Quite impressive.

  4. The post is very scholarly and analytical in its approach. It’s deeply informative and helpful to more than just students.

  5. Avatar of Lizzie Roberts
    Lizzie Roberts

    The post offers a comprehensive analysis on the distinction between Ought to and Need to, shedding light on how imperative they both are for English education. The comparison table is quite effective.

  6. The examples provided are incredible. They really helped me get a clear understanding of how to use ‘Ought to’ and ‘Need to’.

  7. This post presents a very thorough guide to using these phrases. I’m quite impressed with how well it’s been elaborated.

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