Difference Between Should and Ought To

Key Difference – Should vs Ought To
 

Should and ought to are two different types of modal verbs in the English language. Before focusing on these two modal verbs, it is important to comprehend what modal verbs are. Modal verbs can be used to speak of possibility, probability, or even certainty. It can also be used when making requests, asking for permission, or providing suggestions. In the English language, there are a number of modal verbs such as can, must, might, shall, will, could, would, etc. Should falls under this category of modal verbs. However, ought to is considered as a semi-modal verb. This is the key difference between should and ought to.

What is Should?

Should as a modal verb can be used in various contexts. They are as follows.

Sense of Duty – Should can be used when we want to imply what is the correct thing in a particular situation.

They should be honest with the clients.

The company should implement the new employee policies.

Advice/ Suggestions – Should can also be used when we want to suggest something or when giving pieces of advice.

He should talk to the manager about his new proposal.

You should take some days off to clear your head.

Probability – Should is used when implying that something would take place.

They should be back by now.

By this time next year, I should have my license to practice counseling.

It must be stressed that since should is a modal verb it does not have to be conjugated according to the subject of the sentence. Also, the following subject remains in the base form. (go, tell, meet)

She should meet her lawyer.

They should go out.

He should ask for their help.

Difference Between Should and Ought To

By this time next year, I should have my license to practice counseling.

What is Ought To?

Ought to is categorized as a semi-modal verb. This is because it has certain characteristics of a modal verb, but also other characteristics that make it a main verb. For instance ought is followed by the preposition ‘to’ in most situations although there are exceptions to it. There are many instances in which ought to can be used.

Duty/Morality – Ought to is used to imply that one has a sense of duty, morality to so something.

You ought to tell the truth.

They ought to take responsibility for what they did.

Advice – Ought to is used when giving or asking for advice. It can be used for recommendations as well.

You ought to finish the work before the deadline.

You ought to attach your personal documents as well.

Probability/ Desire – Ought to highlights that something is likely to happen or an ideal condition.

There ought to be some good clothing shops at the new mall.

The meeting ought to finish off by six.

Key Difference - Should vs Ought To

You ought to finish the work before the deadline.

What is the difference between Should and Ought To?

Definitions of Should and Ought To:

Should: Should is a modal verb.

Ought To: Ought to is a semi-modal verb.

Characteristics of Should and Ought To:

Type:

Should: Should is a modal verb.

Ought To: Ought to is a semi-modal verb.

Usage:

Should: Should is much more widely used than ought to.

Ought To: Ought to is less used.

Moral Implications:

Should: Should does not have a moral implication.

Ought To: Ought to can sometimes have a moral implication.

Spoken English:

Should: When speaking should is widely used.

Ought To: Ought to is not much used in speaking.

Formality:

Should: Should is less formal.

Ought To: Ought to is much more formal.

 

Image Courtesy:

1. GeneticCounseling By United States National Institutes for Health, Center for Hearing and Communication Disorders [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

2. A kid drawing or writing By dotmatchbox at flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons