Have To vs. Ought To

'Have to' and 'ought to' may cause confusion as they both express obligations. In this lesson, we will learn more about them.

"Have To" vs. "Ought To" in the English grammar

What Is Their Main Difference?

The main difference between 'have to' and 'ought to' is that 'have to' is more common than 'ought to.'

Have to

'Have to' is a semi-modal verb (also known as semi-modal) that functions similarly to modal verbs. It can act as modals and main verbs. It is used to express obligations, certainty, etc. Have a look:

You have to turn in your assignment by Tuesday.

She has to take notes in class.

Ought to

'Ought to' is a semi-modal. It expresses assumption, obligations, advice, and expectations. For instance:

We ought to be punctual.

It ought to be her at the door.

Similarity

Talking about Obligations

We use 'have to' and 'ought to' to talk obligations. Obligations are motivated by law, someone, or oneself. 'Ought to' is less common and more formal than 'have to.' Have a look:

He ought to work harder.

He has to work harder.

You ought to keep this a secret.

Structure

Affirmative Form

We can use 'have to' and 'ought to' in affirmative form by placing them before the main verb. Watch:

I have to reach out to Ana as soon as possible.

We ought to reduce crime rates.

Negative Form

To create the negative form of 'have to' and 'ought to' we follow the patterns illustrated below:

  • do/did/does + not + have to

I didn't have to help you with your work.

She doesn't have to answer your questions.

  • ought + not + to

I ought not to think about the consequences.

He ought not to listen to bad comments.

Interrogative Form

To create questions with 'have to' and 'ought to,' we use the patterns shown below:

  • Did/Do/Does + subject + have to + main verb + …?

Do you have to be so arrogant?

Did she have to be present at the meeting?

  • Ought + subject + to + infinitive + …?

Ought he to report it to the police?

Ought I to be worried about this?

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