Ought To vs. Might

'Ought to' and 'might' are used to talk about possibilities and may confuse learners. In this lesson, we will learn when to use them.

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

What Is Their Main Difference?

The main difference between 'ought to' and 'might' is that 'ought to' is a semi-modal verb while 'might' is a modal verb.

Ought to

As mentioned earlier, 'ought to' is a semi-modal verb. Semi-modals sometimes act like modal verbs and sometimes act like main verbs. 'Ought to' expresses obligations and assumptions. For instance:

You ought to be more careful.

He ought to be at his office.

Might

'Might' is a modal verb. Modal verbs give additional information about the main verb. 'Might' expresses possibilities and advice. It is the past tense of modal verb 'may.' Have a look:

I thought she might be thirsty.

The hurricane might have stopped by now.

Similarity

Talking about Possibilities

We use 'ought to' and 'might' to talk about what we think is happening.

  • 'Ought to' talks about logical possibilities. These deductions are based on logical assumptions.

He ought to be off to school at this hour.

The sky is so grey; it ought to rain soon.

  • 'Might' expresses a slight possibility. The chance of accuracy is much lower than 'ought to.'

He might be off to work.

The sky is so grey; it might rain soon.

Differences

Talking about Obligations

We use 'ought to' to talk about obligations that can be motivated by society, someone, or oneself. For instance:

You ought to respect the school rules.

She ought to wake up at 7 a.m.

Giving Advice

We often use 'might' to politely give advice or a fair warning. In this case, we often pair 'might' with 'want' as the main verb. For example:

You might want to lower the music volume.

You might want to have that wound checked.

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