Should and Ought to

Should & Ought to are used in a variety of situations. Keep in mind that there is no difference in meaning between should and ought to.

Should & Ought to are used to talk about something that is “a good idea” and are often used to make a suggestion.:

  • We should go home now. It’s getting late (or) We ought to go home now. It’s getting late.
  • When you come to NYC, you should go to Central Park
  • You ought to study idioms. They make your conversation more colorful.

Ought to is usually pronounced outta:

  • When you come to NYC, you outta go to Central Park
  • You outta study idioms. They make your conversation more colorful.

Should & Ought to are also used to talk about situation that you believe to be important or proper for people to do. In this meaning, you are not giving advice to anyone in particular, but just stating your belief:

  • People should obey the law and clean up after their dogs.
  • There ought to be more busses in the suburbs.

In a similar way, you can use should and ought to when we talk about situations that are obligations:

  • You ought to respect your parents and follow their rules.
  • You should not smoke near the children.

We also use should and ought to when we talk about situations that are probably because they are usual and expected:

  • Class should be finished by 1:00. Class usually finishes at 1:00
  • Jane ought to be here soon. She left her house 30 minutes ago. It takes 30 minutes to get here.

Finally, we use should have + PP when we talk about situation that we expected to happen in the past, but did not. We also use this form to talk about past regrets. Here, we can not use ought to:

  • The train should have gotten here ten minutes ago. I expected the train to be here 10 minutes ago.
  • should have studied math harder in school. I regret not studying math hard in school.

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