Should vs Ought To

Verbs

Both Should and Ought to belong to the group of auxiliary Modal Verbs that have no meaning on their own but they modify the main verb, change its meaning and give more details about action.

Should and Ought to are used to express obligation and duty through advice or recommendations. They can be considered to not be as strong as “Must”

Grammatical differences between Should and Ought to in the Affirmative, Negative and Interrogative forms:

Affirmative

  • Should: Subject + should* + infinitive;
  • Ought to: Subject + ought* + to + infinitive.

Negative

  • Should: Subject + should* + not + infinitive;
  • Ought to: Subject + ought* + not + to + infinitive.

Interrogative

  • Should: Should* + subject + infinitive+ (?);
  • Ought to: Ought* + subject + to + infinitive + (?).

*The form is always the same, even for the third person. Ought to in all its forms is followed by an infinitive.
Should is always followed by the infinitive of the verb.

Should

  • We should go now. (NOT: We should to go now.)
  • We shouldn’t go now.
  • Should we go now?

Ought to

  • We ought to go now. (NOT: We ought go now.)
  • We oughtn’t to go now.
  • Ought we to go now?

Both these Modal Verbs have a very similar meaning and one can replace the other. However, Should is used much more often and it is less formal than Ought to. Ought to is almost never used in interrogative and negative form.

Should and Ought to are two Modal Verbs which are used to express obligation and duty through advice or recommendations.

They differ in grammar: Should is followed by the infinitive (without “to”), Ought is followed by to + infinitive. However, Ought to especially in its Negative and Interrogative form is very uncommon in everyday use.

They differ also in usage despite both having similar meaning, Should is used more often and is less formal than Ought to.

For example:
— “You should brush your teeth every day.” – “You should to brush your teeth every day. = Should is followed by the verb without “to” and it is less formal.
— “You ought to brush your teeth every day. – “You ought brush your teeth everyday.” = Ought is followed by to + infinitive and it is more formal.

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