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By Judy Vorfeld

When do I use “have” and when do I use “ought”?

Let’s start with “ought.” * Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary says:

“– used to express oblig­a­tion , advis­abil­ity , nat­ural expec­ta­tion , or log­i­cal consequence .”

Ought expresses oblig­a­tion, advis­abil­ity (giv­ing advice), expec­ta­tion, or con­se­quence. It’s a word that sug­gests rather than demands.

Have is a verb that can be used in many ways.

The phrase “have to” means “must.“
The phrase “ought to” means “should.”

If I say you have to leave, then you’d bet­ter leave. If I say you ought to leave, I’m not being as firm, which leaves the door open for you to stay.

*By per­mis­sion. From Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate® Dictionary at www.m-w.com by Merriam-Webster, Incorporated.


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