Is the sentence below grammatically ok? Or something is wrong with it?

  1. They oughtn't to have worked harder.


  1. They ought to have worked harder.

Can we use past simple from ought - oughted? I found it somewhere but it seems to be awkward...

  1. They oughted to work harder.
  • "*Ought" is oughkward. Should have used should. "They should have worked harder". Nov 12, 2017 at 23:03
  • 1
    @WeatherVane You oughtn't to say that. Some are perfectly comfortable with "ought".
    – Andrew
    Nov 13, 2017 at 5:09

1 Answer 1


Although I'm not a native speaker, in all of my years of experience, I've never seen they oughted to work harder. I don't think the past tense form of the verb ought even exists. Just like there's no past tense form of the modal must. I'd say that if you want to express ought in the past, you would simply say had. And to be perfectly honest, ought is not used that often in spoken English. You'll most likely hear it used as part of set phrases like you ought not judge, you ought not to have done that, et cetera. There's not a whole lot of expressions like that in English though.

PS: Notice that the grammar in the two examples with ought that I gave you is a little bit inconsistent. In the second example, there is a to while the first one doesn't have it. And that's the point that I'm trying to make: ought is an old-style verb that has survived in modern English in the form of idiomatic expressions whose grammatical structures may seem antiquated and irregular.

  • 3
    The reason that "ought" doesn't have a past tense is that it is the (obsolete) past tense of "owe". An expression like "You ought to do that" is derived from the past subjunctive in Old English, from the idea that you owe a duty. There is no past tense form of ought.
    – James K
    Nov 12, 2017 at 22:12
  • It's good to know that. But today I think "ought" has a sense of a present-tense verb. Nov 12, 2017 at 22:19
  • 2
    Yes, It acts like a present tense modal. Compare "should" (which is also a past tense, of "shall")
    – James K
    Nov 12, 2017 at 22:31
  • Thanks! What about the sentence number 1. Is it ok?
    – Arcadio
    Nov 13, 2017 at 20:34
  • I guess, technically speaking it's correct. Nov 13, 2017 at 20:39

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