Two words that almost mean the same. Must and ought to be words used in a sentence to emphasize the importance of a situation, both legally and formally. There is a very thin line of difference between these two words. When talking about the likelihood of an event happening, the terms must and ought to can be used. However, the term you choose to use between these two will be dependent on the speaker’s confidence level.
Must Vs. Ought To
The main difference between these two terms is that Must explains that an obligation is external or duty while ought to refer to moral obligation. There is more emphasis placed on must than it is in ought to. Must is more of a modal verb. What this means is that it is a modal verb used to explain modality.
When one uses the term ought to in a sentence, it reduces the power in any action that needs to be taken. Must is a term that is more emphatic when compared to the ought to term. Ought to does not have to be forceful. Must on the other hand is a forceful term. It further goes ahead to explain that a situation needs to be looked into without fail.
Must is a term used to express the need of the hour. To further reiterate this, must help to reveal the urgency of a matter and how soon it needs to get attended to. It is used to say that an event is likely to happen. It shows that the probability of an event happening is higher than it failing. It is the one that reveals strength when used in a sentence.
Ought to on the other hand is a modal verb. It makes a sentence or statement less powerful. It explains a situation that is morally correct in a statement. It is used to recommend something to someone as a better option compared to something else. Ought does not have a past form. It has not been used in questions or negative situations before. Unlike the term must, ought to can be used to explain the situation is likely to or likely not to happen.
Comparison between Must and Ought To
- Must is a term used to express necessity while ought to express a moral obligation.
- Must be used in a legal nature while ought to be used in a formal nature or situation.
- Must is used in the highest degree of emphasis while ought to be used in a relatively high degree of emphasis.
- The term must show that the likelihood of an event happening is high while ought to show that the likelihood is either high or the situation or event may not happen at all.
- Must is a more powerful tone when compared to the term ought to.
- Must is a modal verb while ought to is a semi-modal verb.
What is Must?
This is a term that is used to express duty, obligation, or compulsion. Must do not change its form. It is a helping verb that is used to emphasize the importance or need of something. It always signifies a strong determination. Must only be used in confidence as the speaker needs to explain why a situation being emphasized needs to be executed.
An example used in a sentence is. ‘We must wake up early in the morning.’ Must in this sentence shows that the probability of waking up early in the morning is extremely high. Whenever there is a need to emphasize a situation in a sentence, the term must always be in the sentence. The term is used to explain what is important to do in that statement.
What is ought to?
Unlike must, ought to is a term that focuses more on a moral obligation. That is, it emphasizes more on what is essential and when is the right time to do something. A good example in a sentence is, ‘a good student ought to be punctual at school’. In such a sentence, the term ought to have been used to express a moral obligation. That is, punctuality is morally right to do and any good student needs to do the right thing.
Ought to is also used to show that an event or situation is likely to happen. The situation must not happen but there are chances that it will. An example is, ‘The seminar ought to increase awareness’. In such a sentence, the term ought to show that the seminar does not necessarily need to increase awareness. However, chances that it will, are there.
Difference between Must and Ought To
- Must is used as legal terminology in a sentence while ought to is a term used to help the speaker sound formal.
- There is a higher degree of emphasis in a statement that uses the term must than a statement that uses the term ought to.
- Ought to mostly used to express moral duties and obligations while the term must is used to express the necessity of a situation happening.
- Chances that an event is going to happen are higher when the term must is used. However, when the term ought to is used for the same situation, it shows that the situation will or will not happen. There is no likelihood.
- While both terms are used for obligation, must is used for an external obligation while ought to is used for moral obligation.
In conclusion, both the terms “must” and “ought to” are modal verbs. They have their different features and are of course used to mean different things when used in statements to communicate.
Ought to is used to express a moral obligation or duty while the term must is used to express an external obligation. When the term must is used in a statement, it makes the statement extremely powerful which is the exact opposite when the term “ought to” is used in the same statement.
One needs to understand these two terms in-depth to avoid issues of miscommunication.