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Unit 7.2

Modal Auxiliary Verb – Ought To


A modal verb is a type of auxiliary (helping) verb that has no meaning on its own but it modifies the main verb, changes his meaning and gives more details about action.

Ought to is a type of auxiliary modal verb used to express obligation and duty through advice or recommendations.

Ought to has always the same form even for the third person. We usually find this structure in its three forms:


The affirmative form of the verb ought has this structure:
Subject + ought to + verb.

I/You ought to work
He/She/It ought to work
We/You/They ought to work


The negative form of the verb ought has this structure:
Subject + ought + not + to + verb.

  • Short form of the negative form is: “oughtn’t
I/You ought not to work
He/She/It ought not to work
We/You/They ought not to work


The interrogative form of the verb ought has this structure:
Ought + subject + to + verb + …?

Ought I/you to work …?
Ought he/she/it to work …?
Ought we/you/they to work …?
  1. Recommendation
    • You ought to work out more.
    • He oughtn’t to memorize the rule, it’s better to understand it.
    • Ought we to read the syllabus of the course?
  2. Desires
    • ought to have more free time to play games.
    • He oughtn’t to fail his exams.
    • Ought high school students to have more free time?
  3. Probability
    • There ought to be some good books in the public library.
    • The trip oughtn’t to take more than 3 hours.
    • Ought ballet school girls to be beautiful?
  4. The right thing
    • You ought to apologize.
    • Smoking oughtn’t to be allowed at school.
    • Ought school students to wear appropriate clothes?

We use ought to when we talk about the things that are (affirmative, negative, interrogative):

  1. Recommended for somebody, asking for recommendation;
  2. Desired or ideal;
  3. Probable and likely/unlikely to happen;
  4. The right thing to do.

It can be considered to not be as strong as “must”. It is very similar to “should”, but it is used less. They’re very different in structure. Please note that questions with ought are very formal. Negative and interrogative forms of ought to are rarely used.

We use the modal verb ought to to express obligation and duty through advice or recommendations.

The structure for the three forms of ought to is:

  • Affirmative: Subject + ought to + verb;
  • Negative: Subject + ought + not + to + verb;
  • Interrogative: Ought + subject + to + verb + …?

For example:
— “You ought to do your homework to understand the subject.” = Ought to is used to give recommendation.
♦ “You must do your homework or you will fail the class.” = Must expresses obligation to pass the class.

Let’s revise this content within the [Form] section. Take a look at the [Example] section that shows its use within a context.


Modal Auxiliary Verb - Ought To Copyright © 2016 by My Language Skills. All Rights Reserved.