Difference Between Should and Ought To (With Table)

Modal verbs are used as helping verbs and are used to indicate obligations, permission, suggestions, etc., in a sentence. There are many modal verbs, Should and Ought are two similar modal verbs. Both of the verbs seem similar but have very few differences that we should learn and understand.

Should vs Ought To

The main difference between ‘Should’ and ‘Ought To’ is that Should is used to express obligations, suggestions, or advice from a personal point of view, whereas Ought to is used to express obligations, suggestions, or advice that is correct ethically, or correct according to society’s point of view.

Should is a part of the modal verb that is used with other verbs to suggest, give or ask opinions and to ask permissions. It is the past form of ‘Shall’ and used in many ways other than the past form of ‘Shall’. It is also used to express what you desired but did not get or happen.

‘Ought To’ is also a modal verb, Ought word is always followed by the preposition ‘to’ in the sentence. It is used to give suggestions that are believed to be right according to society. It can be used at the place of Should, but it affects the emphasis of the sentence.

Comparison Table Between Should and Ought To

Parameters of ComparisonShouldOught To
Definition It is a modal verb that expresses opinion suggestions of persons.It is a modal verb that expresses opinions, suggestions of society, etc.
Word OriginIt is made from the past form of Shall.It is related to the word own and is always used with the preposition ‘to’.
NatureIt is less formal.It is more formal to use.
UseIt is used to ask permission or best suggestions according to the situation or personal views.It is used to give suggestions etc. which is ethically right according to society.
ExampleYou should follow traffic rules.You ought to respect the traffic rules.

What is Should?

Should is past tense of Shall and uses as an auxiliary verb along with the main verb in the sentence. It is used to express obligations, seek permission, give suggestions that are right according to one’s own point of view and thinking. It is also used sometimes as the past tense of Shall, but it has more uses other than this.

It is used in different ways. The most common is epistemic modal as it is used to give suggestions and also as deontic modal as it is used to seek permission. When something didn’t happen in the past, but you wanted it to happen, then it should is used in the sentence.

Should is used in many types of sentences, let’s discuss it with some examples:-

  1. ‘Should’ is used to give predictions. For example, The momos in this shop were tasty, so Fries should be good too.
  2. It is used to give opinions or suggestions best suitable for that situation. For example, there is a traffic jam on this road, you should go by metro.
  3. It is used to ask for reasons and permissions. For example, Should I go to the temple on Thursday?

The above examples are just a few uses of should, and it is also used in many other ways as well.

What is Ought To?

Ought To is also a modal verb used to express obligations, suggestions, advice, etc. Ought is always followed by the preposition ‘to’, but when used in a negative sentence, ‘not’ is placed between ‘Ought’ and ‘to’. It can be used interchangeably with should and must, but it more formal than should but less than ‘must’.

It is used as same as should, like to give suggestions, ask advice, etc. but it is less commonly used, as it is more formal it is mostly seen in written form. But mainly to give suggestions etc., it is used in the sense of morally or ethically correct suggestions, not just right according to personal views.

Ought To is used in many types of sentences. Let’s discuss it with some examples:-

  1. Ought to is used to give an opinion that is right according to society etc. For example, You ought to respect your elders.
  2. It is used to predict using some logic etc. For example, The weather ought to be hot in July.
  3. It is used to tell the right thing like duty etc. For example, You ought to follow traffic rules.

The above examples are just a few uses of Ought to, and it is also used in many other ways in sentences.

Main Differences Between Should and Ought To

  1. The main difference between Should and Ought is that Should is used to give suggestions that are right according to the situation or personal view, but Ought to is used to give suggestions that are morally right.
  2. In a negative sentence, not is added after should on the other In case of ought to, the ‘not’ is put in-between of ‘ought’ and ‘to’.
  3. Should is less formal when used in sentences, whereas Ought to is more formal as compared to should.
  4. We can see the use of should in written as well as a spoken language but Ought to is mostly used in written language.
  5. Should express a subjective opinion as it depends on the personal view. On the other hand, Ought to express an objective opinion as it depends on the accepted view in the society.

Conclusion

Every language is unique in its way, the English language is also different, and it has many words that seem similar and used interchangeably, but the real context of the sentence can be expressed only using correct words, and for that, we must understand the meaning and usage of all the confusing words.

‘Should’ and ‘Ought To’ are two different words that are used in some sentences, but both of the words give a different feel to the sentence. Should is used to give suggestions from personal opinion in a less formal way on the other hand Ought to is used t give suggestions from society’s view in a more formal manner.

References

  1. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/english-language-and-linguistics/article/should-and-ought-the-rise-of-individually-oriented-modality-in-american-english1/E6A85353FA9ADA2899F5CC241C25AAE5
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