Difference between Should and Ought to | Should and Ought to

Have you ever faced a situation where you can’t figure out whether you’ve to use ‘should’ or ‘ought to’? Most of us in our lives have faced such situations while trying to learn the English language. So, the question is – how to make sure that when are we using ‘ought to’ or ‘should’, we are using these correctly? This article will make sure that you understand when to use these words and how to use them in the correct contexts. Through this article, you will learn whether there’s any difference between these terms or not.

The English Language is considered to be confusing by many as there are numerous words that people consider to be the same, but in reality, those have completely different meanings. Since those words appear to be the same in many cases, they are used in the wrong contexts. To avoid such confusion, this article will discuss the following points of differences between ‘should’ and ‘ought to’.

Table Summarising the Difference between Should and Ought to

Ought to Should
Meaning The word ought to is used to express opinions or something probable. The word should is used to show what one thinks is best for the concerned subject/person.
Usage It is used as a Verb. It is used as a Verb.
Example He ought to be there. You should visit your parents more often.

This table shows that ‘should’ and ‘ought to’ can’t be treated as synonymous but can be used interchangeably. Students often get confused between these words, and this table will help them understand the contexts they are to be used in. Once they get the difference between these words, they can apply them correctly in sentences of their own.

The Difference between Should and Ought to – Meanings

If one wants any specific difference between the two terms ‘ought to’ and ‘should’, there’s a high chance that one might end up having the exact meaning for both. However, these words aren’t synonymous but can be used interchangeably in many cases. The term ‘should’ is the past form of the verb ‘shall’. ‘Should’ is used in sentences where permission is sought or to give advice/suggestion that one thinks is right according to them. The word ‘should’ also shows probability, whereas the word ‘ought to’ is used to instil a more formal tone in the sentence. ‘Ought to’ is used to express opinions, something which is probable or inform someone about certain necessary duties or obligations. Students often confuse these words and consider them to be synonymous, but they aren’t. But both these words can be used interchangeably if one understands the meaning of the sentence they’re using these in.

Examples of Should and Ought to

The following example will help students understand the terms ‘ought to’ and ‘should’ clearly :

Ought to – i) Ross ought to be more punctual (opinion)

ii) It ought to be snowing by this month’s end (prediction/probability)

iii) You ought to respect the flag of your country (duties)

Should – i) Should I go to the prom tomorrow? (permission)

ii) You should leave early for the office to avoid traffic jams. (suggestion/idea best for the situation)

iii) The shop should be opened by now (probability/prediction)

Should and Ought to – Conclusion

In conclusion, the words ‘ought to’ and ‘should’ are not synonymous but can be used interchangeably if one understands the context of any sentence. This article points out the difference between ‘ought to’ and ‘should’ so that it becomes easy for students to use them in sentences. BYJU’S offers various articles on many such ‘Difference Between’ two words that people often get confused with.


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