Modal Auxiliary Verb – Ought To

Verbs

A Modal Verb is a type of auxiliary (helping) verb that has no meaning on their 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. It can be considered to not be as strong as “must”. It is very similar to “should”, but is used less. They’re very different in structure.

Affirmative

The Affirmative form of the verb Ought has this structure:
Subject + ought* + to + verb.

PERSON OUGHT TO VERB
I ought to do
You ought to do
He ought to do
She ought to do
It ought to do
We ought to do
You ought to do
They ought to do

Negative

The Negative form of the verb Ought has this structure:
Subject + ought* + not + to + verb.

PERSON OUGHT NEGATION VERB 
I ought not to do
You ought not to do
He ought not to do
She ought not to do
It ought not to do
We ought not to do
You ought not to do
They ought not to do

*Short form of the Negative form is: “oughtn’t

Interrogative

The Interrogative form of the verb Ought has this structure:
Ought* + subject + to + verb + (?).

OUGHT PERSON to VERB QUESTION MARK
Ought I to do ?
Ought you to do ?
Ought he to do ?
Ought she to do ?
Ought it to do ?
Ought we to do ?
Ought you to do ?
Ought they to do ?

*The form is always the same, even for the third person.

  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.

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 (e.g. I ought to do);
  • Negative: Subject + ought* + not + to + verb (e.g. I ought not  to do);
  • Interrogative: Ought + subject + to + verb + question mark (e.g. Ought you to do..?). 

For example:
— “You ought to revise the course after school.” = Recommendation.
— “I ought to have more time to read.” = Desire.
— “You ought to find bread in this supermarket.” = Probability.
— “She ought to stop drinking.” = Right thing to do.

NOTE: *The form is always the same, even for the third person.

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