Main definitions of ought in US English:

: ought1ought2ought3

ought1

modal verb

  • 1Used to indicate duty or correctness, typically when criticizing someone's actions.

    ‘they ought to respect the law’
    ‘it ought not to be allowed’
    • ‘Since you seem able to give up your romantic relationship, that's probably what you ought to do.’
    • ‘I think the chief diplomat probably ought to tell the truth about the regime.’
    • ‘Even though they don't know the recipient they feel that they ought to offer five dollars.’
    • ‘Ordinarily, your Honour, probably we ought to pay the costs.’
    • ‘But she probably ought to be attending to that haggard look on his face instead of his apparel, pretty as it was.’
    • ‘I mean, they are doing yeoman duty and we ought to thank every one of them for putting their lives on the line.’
    • ‘It happened at a time when he was serving his country, and he served it very ably and very well, as a volunteer in the Navy SEALS, and we ought to respect that.’
    • ‘As former British countries got their independence, then there was a feeling of duty that we ought to do something to help.’
    • ‘And if the company's offering a match, most employees probably ought to be saving up to the match threshold.’
    • ‘Specifically, he means that young people ought to show respect to their teachers, their parents, and to other people in public spaces.’
    • ‘There probably ought to be compulsory vanity lessons in schools.’
    • ‘And seeing as she's flown all the way from Texas, I probably ought to make the effort to drive 15 miles to see her.’
    • ‘Basically, I don't know enough, and I ought to know more.’
    • ‘I've been a member for five years; you ought to know what I buy, how much I buy, when I buy.’
    • ‘If leaders are not passionate about leading, then they probably ought to find something else to do.’
    • ‘You probably ought to talk it over with your fiancé and think hard about how you feel.’
    • ‘Writers probably ought to feed their minds better.’
    • ‘Upon landing, he told the press that the experience was ‘mind blowing’, but that he probably ought to back off a little bit now and ride his bike instead.’
    • ‘And we ought to correct them, so that our men and women are not at risk.’
    • ‘And we ought to respect them, and to be ready and prepared to accept the results as they announce them.’
    ought to, should
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Used to indicate a desirable or expected state.
      ‘he ought to be able to take the initiative’
      • ‘My legs are not so cold now, though they probably ought to be.’
      • ‘Still, to the historian, objectivity is a real and binding duty; it ought to be at once his obligation and his creed.’
      • ‘This makes the film much more fun than it probably ought to be.’
      • ‘When I asked him about it, he nodded and said yes, there probably ought to be a better way, and he would talk to some people.’
      • ‘Perhaps this is what the best criticism ought to do - stimulate a level of interest out of a determined disinterestedness.’
      • ‘Paying taxes ought to be a duty imposed on everyone equally.’
      • ‘At the same time, surely we ought to expect at least some standard of rationality from our governors.’
      • ‘Probably the starting point ought to be the decision of this Court which is cited against us and relied upon against us.’
      • ‘I am not saying that it is right, I am not saying that that is the correct attitude that people ought to have, I am simply saying that that is the perception out there.’
      • ‘We probably ought to have a handle to attach to this new understanding.’
      • ‘He ought to have five acres; more if it be the custom on the estate; and if it is ever less, it will be too little, because his labour must always be available.’
      • ‘There's a long string of folks that probably ought to be following him.’
      • ‘There are 1,200 facilities on the list today, and probably another 600 that ought to be added.’
      • ‘And if people were denied equal access to the ballot, it ought to be corrected.’
      • ‘That's a job for the public-relations experts: They can explain away operations that probably ought to be changed.’
      • ‘This is my safest hiding place, but with the knights following us, we probably ought to move around more.’
      • ‘If we said we're going to the convention we probably ought to go, at least for a while.’
      • ‘But any decent relationship needs a little space in which to flourish, and we ought to be generous enough to make such space for the people we love - and for ourselves too.’
      • ‘The argument for a broader construction of a given right often amounts to the claim that further duties ought to be imposed on the state in order to satisfy the right.’
      • ‘That criticism, however, is not meant as a serious one; the book probably ought to be read in small chunks.’
      meant, intended, expected
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 Used to give or ask for advice.
      ‘you ought to go’
      • ‘If they know what's good for them, they probably ought to shut up and pray that the court decides to give them a victory just because they don't want the grief.’
      • ‘My personal advice is they ought to take a hard look at the situation they are in, and it would be probably better for them to start leaving or making plans to leave.’
      • ‘You probably ought to get up and start moving around.’
      • ‘You probably ought to wear one outdoors as well.’
      • ‘Wherever you're fishing in Denmark, you really ought to get hands-on advice at one or both of the excellent tackle shops in central Copenhagen.’
      • ‘He walked through the hallways, remembering her advice that he ought to write to the school paper's advice column.’
      • ‘But you probably ought to stick with the zinnias for now.’
      • ‘If your legal advice is that you have not got a cause of action, then you ought to listen to that advice.’
      • ‘I think that member ought to take the advice of his own leader.’
      • ‘‘I still think you ought to seriously listen to my advice and take it,’ John said.’
  • 2Used to indicate something that is probable.

    ‘five minutes ought to be enough time’
    • ‘That ought to do the work.’
    • ‘More than five years ought to be enough time.’
    • ‘I figured that 20 minutes ought to be enough to keep her off my back.’

Usage

The verb ought is a modal verb, which means that, grammatically, it does not behave like ordinary verbs. In particular, the negative is formed with the word not by itself, without auxiliary verbs such as do or have. Thus the standard construction for the negative is he ought not to go. Note that the preposition to is required in both negative and positive statements: we ought to accept her offer, or we ought not to accept her offer (not we ought accept or we ought not accept). The alternative forms he didn't ought to have gone and he hadn't ought to have gone, formed as if ought were an ordinary verb rather than a modal verb, are not acceptable in formal English. Reserve ought for expressing obligation, duty, or necessity, and use should for expressing suitability or appropriateness

Origin

Old English āhte, past tense of āgan ‘owe’ (see owe).

Pronunciation

ought

/ôt//ɔt/

Main definitions of ought in US English:

: ought1ought2ought3

ought2

noun

  • archaic term for aught
    • ‘For aught that I can tell, it went really well, particularly after I got on to the second roll, which I used to shoot, among other things, the crowd of avid onlookers for whom the result of the match seemed to matter so much.’
    • ‘I wasn't thinking you meant aught by it, lad, and I'd not give two coppers for a youngster as didn't want to see his elders brought down a peg or two once in a while.’
    • ‘The old saying is probably right: you don't get aught for naught.’
    • ‘Now there was no plan driven by aught but fear and he spurred his horse northward, to the only place he knew as safety.’
    • ‘Well, Anselmo was at least a conscientious scholar in his time, and Rafael, if tradition be worth aught, was a comely youth.’
    • ‘On the other hand, the real ‘have nots’ are they who cannot have aught except by depriving others of it.’
    • ‘A government had better go to the extreme of toleration than to do aught that could be construed into an interference with, or to jeopardise in any degree, the common rights of its citizens.’
    • ‘And tho’ I helped make many a parchment from the chosen lambs, I did all my writing practice in my wax tablet, for parchment is far too precious for aught but the practised scribe.’
    • ‘If aught else were said we should only be laughed at.’
    • ‘It's happy I am no one's said aught of wizards!’
    • ‘Then who are we to say aught against them, when so many of us lost the teenage years of our own children because our minds were somewhere else.’
    • ‘To pry for hidden metals, to smelt out riches deposited in the veins of the earth, to fold sure-handed the malleable mass - these skills will come from you, as will aught which is fashioned of silver or gold.…’
    • ‘I will go see if there be aught of worthy note about the house.’
    • ‘My Goddess has clearly said, ‘I demand aught of sacrifice.’’
    • ‘Never said I to them aught except what thou didst command me.’
    • ‘And such of your slaves as seek a writing (of emancipation), write it for them if ye are aware of aught of good in them.’

Origin

Mid 19th century: perhaps from an ought, by wrong division of a nought; compare with adder.

Pronunciation

ought

/ɔt//ôt/

Main definitions of ought in US English:

: ought1ought2ought3

ought3

pronoun

  • variant spelling of aught

Pronunciation

ought

/ôt//ɔt/