I was wondering if an AmE native speaker could let me know the semantic nuance between the two sentences caused by using similar verbs "obligate" and "oblige" in my self-made the examples below.

  • I’m obliged to do this.

  • I’m obligated to do this.

For me, they both mean the same thing, but perhaps they have some serious semantic differences. P.s. I've already read this thread, but I couldn't get much of it.

  • There is an answer here: What is the difference between “to oblige” and “to obligate”?
    – Peter
    Jan 6, 2017 at 12:04
  • 1
    I don't need to help you; I want to help you. I'm not obligated (by anyone), but I'm obliged (by my own will). Jan 6, 2017 at 12:27
  • @TeacherKSHuang interesting answer. Thank you, though it is not completely clear yet. ;)
    – A-friend
    Jan 6, 2017 at 13:27
  • @Peter thank you, but please have another look on my question. ;)
    – A-friend
    Jan 6, 2017 at 13:28
  • 4
    "To be obligated" tends to have a legal meaning/binding where one must do something "Students are obligated to pay off their loans, or have a bad credit rating", "US expats are obligated to file annual tax returns no matter where in the world they are." "Obliged" may have more of a moral binding. In the US south, when someone does something nice for you, you could say "Thank you very much, much obliged." meaning "Thank you very much, I'm in your debt." I am obliged (morally) to repay your nice gesture, but I am not obligated to do so."
    – Peter
    Jan 6, 2017 at 14:17

1 Answer 1


"Obliged" implies a certain degree of gratitude, or some small measure of indebtedness For example

I am obliged to you for your help

implies that I appreciate your help, and I might return the favor at some point in time, but nothing more. Meanwhile

I am obligated to you for your help

does imply a debt that ought to be repaid. As Peter points out, in some contexts an obligation includes legal and moral binding, whereas "obliged" is much more lax and relative to the individual.

Apparently in the past "obliged" was much more common, although examples of "obligated" from 200 years ago contain the same nuance as the word has today.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .