Difference Between Obliged and Obligated

Obliged vs Obligated

There are many pairs of words in English language that are both being used despite being similar in meaning. In the case of obliged and obligated, one cannot be faulted for using either though obliged seems to be the preferred choice of most people around the world. This article attempts to find the subtle differences between obliged and obligated.


It seems that a high percentage of people who use obligated actually mean obliged. But why do they use the word obligated in the first place? The word obligated is used in situations where a person, though he seems to have a choice, feels to go a particular way as if he is under pressure to do so. If one feels a moral as well as legal constraint to do an act, he is said to be obligated. If a person feels he should return the favor by doing something and he doesn’t seem to have a choice, he is said to be obligated to do so.


If someone has helped you in the past and now you see him in distress, it is your moral duty to bail him out. So you feel obliged to help the person though there is no compulsion under the law to do so. You feel obliged to act a certain way as you feel to return the favor. If a person feels a sense of gratitude towards another person, he is said to be obliged. He still has choice or freedom to act otherwise and not return the favor.

Obliged vs Obligated

  • Both oblige and obligated are correct words and can be used interchangeably but obliged is less formal than obligated
  • When a person is under obligation he is said to be under moral as well as legal constraints and does not seem to have a choice. On the other hand, he has a free will in case he is simply obliged and no more.
  • Thus, obliged is a word that is always correct as far as usage is concerned while obligated is correct only in some circumstances
  • When you need to do something because otherwise you do not feel comfortable, you are said to be obliged but, if you are under obligation, you are legally bound too.