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again about should vs. ought to



 
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no longer wild vs. not longer wild | Test incompl/elem-130, Question 5
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again about should vs. ought to #1 (permalink) Sun Aug 08, 2010 13:15 pm   again about should vs. ought to
 

Please help me, I have read explanations on "should" and "ought to", but still have questions. I need a professional opinion of a grammarian who is a native English speaker.
I am absolutely confused about the difference between "should" and "ought to" about which there is so much different in the Internet. Most of what I found says that the verbs are practically the same in the meaning and in most cases interchangeable.
In the dictionary I found the folowing meanings:

1. (used to express duty or moral obligation): Every citizen ought to vote.
2. (used to express justice, moral rightness, or the like): He ought to be punished. You ought to be ashamed.
3. (used to express propriety, appropriateness, etc.): You ought to be home early. We ought to bring her some flowers.
4. (used to express probability or natural consequence): That ought to be our train now.

Only meanings 2 and 3 can have smth in common with "should", and if I understand this difference right, "ought to" expresses "the right thing to do" while "should" would express personal advice.

At the same time, the Oxford dictionary gives the following meanings of "ought to":
modal verb
1. used to indicate duty or correctness, typically when criticizing someone's actions:
They ought to respect the law.
Thanks for your letter which I ought to have answered sooner.
2. used to indicate a desirable or expected state:
He ought to be able to take the initiative.
3. used to give or ask for advice:
You ought to go.
4. used to indicate something that is probable:
Five minutes ought to be enough time.


Grammar books published in Russia say that "should" tends to express more personal subjective advice, "ought to" - moral obligation. Please help me to make out. Thank you.
Natadtw1
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again about should vs. ought to #2 (permalink) Sun Aug 08, 2010 14:11 pm   again about should vs. ought to
 

Hello natadtw-- and welcome to English-test.net.

I wouldn't pay attention to any of that. I have just mentally substituted the other verb in all 8 of your sentences and the meanings did not change whatsoever. Native speakers use both verbs readily; the variations are more individual than semantic.
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again about should vs. ought to #3 (permalink) Sun Aug 08, 2010 14:32 pm   again about should vs. ought to
 

Thank you, Mr. Micawber , for the answer. Yes, that's exactly what I read about. The thing that embarrasses me most is that very respectable grammar books give a system of exercises to drill this difference - moral duty or obligation vs. personal advice. Also, this is what I was taught in the university. Why????? I am writing a manual for my students and want to clarify this for myself. Maybe, this is due to the difference between British English or American English?
Natadtw1
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again about should vs. ought to #4 (permalink) Sun Aug 08, 2010 16:13 pm   again about should vs. ought to
 

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Hi Natadtw1,

There is this fine distinction and I have to confess that I have made a point of it when class teaching over many years in the past but I have to agree with Charles above that one is as good as the other. The difference really lies in the tone of voice used by the speaker. I could give a flavour like this:

You should answer all the questions on that sheet (matter of fact tone)

You ought to thank them for all the help they've given you (slightly reproachful tone)

Hope that helps.

Alan
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again about should vs. ought to #5 (permalink) Sun Aug 08, 2010 17:08 pm   again about should vs. ought to
 

Dear Alan, thank you for the answer. I see what you mean. Now I am thinking that what you and Charles wrote refutes all the accepted grammar works on these modals by Russian grammarians))
Natadtw1
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