Difference Between Ought To and Need To

The verb or modal verb, Ought to and need to still play a big role in a student’s English class. Rather than coming up with a huge question, these small types of questions also matter in a person’s language skill.

Ought to phrase is relating to the duty or obligation, whereas the need to is a necessity phrase. 

Ought To vs Need To

The main 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 expedient are the examples of Ought to. Meanwhile, the words: want, desire, essential, necessary, needy, demand, required, and exigent are replacements for Need to. 

Ought To vs Need To

Ought to is mostly referred to be as a verb, with a meaning of showing or doing things with an obligation and good intention. It is usually 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 simply used in a sentence to define something that you desire to happen but didn’t happen though. 

On the other hand, Need to is a verb as well as a noun, which is used in a sentence with the purpose of necessity. It’s like there is no other go, but you have to 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 Between Ought To and Need To

Parameters of Comparison Ought ToNeed To 
Meaning Ought to be a neutral word when indicating a duty or obliged to someone’s action. Ought is considered as negative, as well as, positive verb and termed as Modal Verb.Need to is a verb and a noun that is essential or required to do something or someone. Need is a Modal verb- which impacts in both terms. 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 need to comes from the root- Nauti. Ultimately, William Shakspeare used the word want- which has the synonym to 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.The word “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 placid 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 often used in a sentence relating to something that they desire to happen but didn’t. Additionally, the ought to is also a modal verb, which describes 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 word that is used to express obligation, recommend ability, logical outcomes, and subjective expectation.

And each usage means different as such, first two meanings comes from the old English dictionary, by defining the transitive verb like possess, owe. Secondly, ought to phrase defines the duty or obligation of the action in the recent English dictionary.

For a better understanding, below are 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, need to is used in a sentence that has a negative impact.

Having said that, it is often used to express the importance of the action instead of using the outline of duty. Unlike ought to, ‘need to’ has only one meaning, that is, 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 phrase 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 in a way 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 as well as a verb. 
  2. Ought to is used when you are in a state of doing 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 have to be done, and Need to is something which is required to achieve the task.
  4. Ought to synonyms are should, must, and expedient. Need to synonyms are wanted, required, essential, exigent and demand.
  5. Ought to is a very rare term used in everyday English speaking, where people use the term ‘Should’, ‘Must’, and ‘have-to instead of ‘Ought to’. Need to is a very common word used in daily lives.
Difference Between Ought To and Need To


Ought to is used in case you have an obligation to a particular action. Need to is used when the particular action is wanted or required. Need to is categorised in many ways like- essentials needs of human life such as education, shelter, health and clothes. 

Ought to is used when you are responsible for such action like- “I ought to pay back you”. And the Need to term is employed when you want anything to be done like “I need water”.


  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
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