Should vs Ought To: Difference and Comparison

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 similar. Both verbs seem identical but have very few differences that we should learn and understand.

Key Takeaways

  1. Should and ought to are both modal verbs that express obligation, advice, or recommendation.
  2. Should is more commonly used in everyday conversation and should be more formal.
  3. While both words express similar meanings, ought to is generally considered more polite and less direct than should and is often used to suggest rather than to demand.

Should vs Ought To

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

Should vs Ought To

Should is a part of the modal verb used with other verbs to suggest, give or ask for opinions and permissions. It is the past form of ‘Shall‘ and is used in many ways, different from the past ‘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 instead of Should but it affects the sentence’s emphasis.

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Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonShouldOught To
Definition It is a modal verb that expresses the opinions and 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 relates 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 correct according to society.
ExampleYou should follow traffic rules.You ought to respect the traffic rules.

What is Should?

Should is the 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, and give suitable suggestions according to one’s point of view and thinking.

It is also sometimes used as the past tense of Shall, but it has more uses other than this.

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

should

What is Ought To?

Ought To is also a modal verb 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 is more formal than should but less than ‘must’.

It is used as it should, like to give suggestions, ask advice, etc. but is less commonly used, as it is more formal and primarily seen in written form. But mainly to give suggestions etc., it is used in the sense of morally or ethically correct tips, 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, also used in many other 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 provide morally good recommendations.
  2. In a negative sentence, not is added after should on the other In the case of ought to, the ‘not’ is put between ‘ought’ and ‘to’.
  3. Should is less formal when used in sentences, whereas Ought to is more formal than should.
  4. We can see the use of should in written and spoken language, but Ought to is mainly used in written language.
  5. Should express a subjective opinion as it depends on the personal view. On the other hand, one Ought to define an objective statement as it depends on the accepted view in society.
Difference Between Should and Ought To
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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