Difference between Ought To and Should πŸ‘‰πŸ˜‰πŸ™Œ


SHOULD and OUGHT TO are both modal verbs.

In most cases, SHOULD and OUGHT TO are used interchangeably today. Both SHOULD and OUGHT TO are used to express advice, obligation, or duty.

However, there is a slight difference in meaning.


is used when we want to express our subjective opinion.
In other words, β€˜what I think is best for you to do’.

  • You should call your mother more often.
  • He should apologize before she stops talking to him.


is used when we want to express an objective truth.
In other words, β€˜what is necessary, and cannot be avoided’

That’s why we usually use OUGHT TO when we are talking about laws, duties, and regulations.

  • They ought to follow the school’s policy, or they will get expelled.Β 
  • According to this road sign, they ought to stop here.Β 

I hope it’s clear now πŸ™‚

P.S. Remember that OUGHT is always followed by to + infinitive.

Have to

Have to is somewhat different from ought to and should. Both ought to and should denote something that you would be suggested to follow.

For example:

  • You should always do your homework before bed.

Here, you should means that it would be good to do your homework before bed because in the morning you might be tired. Ought to and should are options, and depending on your choices you might not follow them.

Have to, however, is an obligation. Have to means that there is no way around following what being said or proposed. The most famous sentence containing have to is:

  • You have to follow the rules.

Here we can see how have to is used to denote a level of obligation, and how it is connected to rules and regulations. Now, of course, you can choose to not follow anything you have to do. However, just using have to draws attention to the fact that the action is regulated.


Have to is closely associated with must, and they are near-synonyms. When you have to do something, it’s very much the same as if you must do something.

More with Should

More with Ought to

More with Have to

More with Must

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Sally Smith
Sally Smith
4 years ago

The word β€œsign” is misspelled in the second sentence example under the use of the words β€œought to.” I thought you should know.