Using the expression ‘ought to’ in English – ( Modal Auxiliary Verb)

‘Ought to’ is a modal auxiliary verb and its meaning changes depending on how it is used in a sentence. In this lesson you will learn the usage of this not so commonly use English expression – Ought to.

In this lesson, you are going to take a look at the various uses of ‘ought to’.

  • Example: You ought to exercise more. ( a strong recommendation/advice)
  • Example: She ought to receive the package tonight. (Probability)
  • Example: James ought to get the promotion. (something expected to happen)

In the past, it is used with ‘have + a past participle verb’. It means something that should have happened, didn’t happen in the past.

  • Example: You ought to have helped him. (you should have helped him, but you didn’t do your duty)
  • Example: I ought to have studied medicine not physics. (I regret the past action of studying physics)

In the negative, ‘ought not’ is used without ‘to’.

  • Example: You ought not smoke so much.
  • Example: They ought not carry so much cash while travelling.

In the interrogative, ‘ought’ is placed before the subject and ‘to’ is not used. Generally, ‘should’ is more commonly used.

  • Example: Ought she call the police? (‘Should she call the police?’ is a more common way of asking)
  • Example: Ought we complete this now? (should is more commonly used in place of ‘ought’)


  • Dear Prof. Rachna,
    I have a problem or rather I do not know which one is correct. Let me explain presently:
    A) You oughtn’t TO have said that about his mother.
    B) You oughtn’t have said that about his mother.
    C) Ought she call the police?
    D) Ought she TO call the police?
    id est ( Practical english Usage by Swan textbook and Cambridge Dictionary said A and D.
    Canadian, American, you and Learner’s Dictionary Merriam said B and C )
    May you help me ?
    I pay my respect to you. H

  • Dear Miss. Ration,
    Thank you kindly, very nice lesson indeed. I do love your teaching, speaking and enjoying . Milady, I would appreciate it if you would be so kind as to let me have a lesson on Cleft-Sentences. It is a very hard argument and I always made some mistakes. Seneca said,”Errare humanum est, perseverare autem diabolicum.”
    Please accept my deepest apologies for disturbing you. I pay my respect to you, Milady. Ration. H

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