What is the difference between MUST and SHOULD?

Hero Asked on 09/04/2014 in English Grammar.

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on 19/04/2014.
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The difference between MUST and SHOULD
‘Must’ and ‘should’ are both modal verbs.
MUST is used when expressing obligation or an unavoidable requirement, whereas SHOULD is more of a recommendation, or simply a desirable goal.
MUST
Similar to ‘have to’ – strong obligation.
– You must abide by the law.
– You mustn’t smoke indoors, it is illegal.
– You must arrive on time; otherwise, we will leave without you.
SHOULD
Similar to ‘ought to’ – a suggestion.
– You should try to get some sleep; it is very late, and you have a lot of work to do tomorrow.
– You shouldn’t be so mean to your brother, he’s just trying to help you.
– You should visit us more often, we hardly ever see you nowadays.

Pro Editor Answered on 19/04/2014.

Hello Franco,

Thank you for your comment. You are on the right track because MUST, OUGHT and SHOULD do share ‘similar’ meanings in the sense that you can use them all to talk about duty, obligation advice or instructions, but MUST has a much stronger degree of emphasis. You use MUST when you want to stress that it is very important for someone to follow your instructions – you are not giving them a choice. Also, you cannot use MUST to make predictions, but you can with OUGHT and SHOULD.

On the other hand, OUGHT and SHOULD are more closely related in meaning. SHOULD is used to tell someone what you think is the right thing to do (in your opinion), but whether they do as you say or not is their choice. Similarly, OUGHT is used to express your own view of what is the right thing to do.

I hope this helps to clarify that although they are a trio of related modal verbs, there are differences between these words.

I have also included a couple of links from other reliable sources for you to read through:

http://www.onestopenglish.com/methodology/ask-the-experts/grammar-questions/grammar-teaching-the-modals-ought-to-should-must-and-have-to/146365.article

http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2014/03/must-should-ought/

Happy Learning!

on 22/04/2016.

Well, thanks ! but when we say for ourselves which one should be used?? For example, my answer was correct, my English should/must be getting better. So as in the example, which one is better? Please kindly answer my question. Thank in advance!

on 24/08/2016. Edit Delete
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