Using Ought To

We can use ‘ought to’ in the same way as we use ‘should’. ‘Should’ is more common.

We use ‘ought to’ in a number of ways:

  1. Making recommendations and giving advice;
  2. Expressing obligation;
  3. Expressing expectation or probability.

Making Recommendations

We can use ‘ought to’ to give advice or make recommendations.

You ought to visit Paris while you are in France.

I recommend you vist Paris. I think it is a good place for you to visit.

Children ought to drink milk for breakfast.

It is a good idea for children to drink milk for breakfast.

Expressing Obligation

We can use ‘ought to’ to express an obligation or a duty. ‘Ought to’ expresses a weak obligation.

I’m having a party this weekend, you ought to come.

I want you to come to my party.

We ought to leave. It is getting late.

We have to leave. If we don’t leave now, it will be too late when we get home.

Expressing Expectation and Probability

We can use ‘ought to’ to talk about something we expect to happen, or something we think is likely to happen.

They ought to be in London by now.

I expect them to have arrived in London now. I am not certain if they have arrived.

Making Sentences Using Ought To

There are a couple of things to remember when using ‘ought to’:

  1. In negative sentences, we usually drop the ’to’, we use ‘ought not’ (or oughtn’t) followed by the main verb.
  2. ‘Ought to’ is rarely used in questions. It is much more common to use should for questions.

+ We ought to leave. s=we + ought + to + v

- We ought not leave. s=we + ought + not + v

? Ought we leave? ought + s=we + v

The short form of ‘ought not’ is oughtn’t