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06 / 11 / 2006

OUGHT TO: meaning and examples

Good morning everyone. I hope you had a relaxing weekend.

In October we reviewed modal verbs. Today we are going to answer a query from José Luís, which is related to the Daily Vitamin we sent on October 27th about the modal verb should. Here is José Luís's question: 

Dear Matthew:
I would like to ask for your attention on other important Modal verb: Ought to. Maybe this one isn't an "authentic" Modal verb because of the presence of the particle to.

Example: You ought to visit your grandmother. She's in hospital with a serious illness.

Thank you in advance. José Luís

José Luís is correct. As we mentioned in the Daily Vitamin on October 20th, ought to is not a "pure modal verb," but rather a semi-modal or a pariphrastic modal verb.

It has the same meaning and use as the pure modal verb should, but is less common. We use the modal verb ought to when we want to indicate that something is a good thing or a bad thing to do. We often use it together with the word think.

1) I think you ought to accept the job.

1.1) You ought to accept the job.

Ought to is not as strong as must or have to.

2) You have to accept the job. (obligation)

So, we use ought to to talk about what is the right or wrong thing to do in a certain situation.

3) When you're in a library you oughtn't to speak loudly.

Thank you for your question José Luís. If anyone has any questions about today's Daily Vitamin, they ought to post them in the Daily Vitamin Plus! forum section on our website.

Have a great day!