I recently read a text that includes this sentence:

My father’s words ought to be my own.

I checked Oxford Dictinaries and it means:

  • Used with a possessive to emphasize that someone or something belongs or relates to the person mentioned.

  • 1.1 Done or produced by and for the person mentioned.

  • 1.2 Particular to the person or thing mentioned; individual.

I think the 1.2 definition fits with the phrase but I am not sure. So, Could you please tell me what the meaning of own here is? The fuller text is:

Charles and I spent the next afternoon in the park, rocking lazily in tire swings. I told him about the scholarship. I’d meant it as a brag, but for some reason my fears came out with it. I said I shouldn’t even be in college, that I should be made to finish high school first. Or to at least start it.

Charles sat quietly while I talked and didn’t say anything for a long time after. Then he said, “Are you angry your parents didn’t put you in school?” “It was an advantage!” I said, half-shouting. My response was instinctive. It was like hearing a phrase from a catchy song: I couldn’t stop myself from reciting the next line. Charles looked at me skeptically, as if asking me to reconcile that with what I’d said only moments before.

“Well, I’m angry,” he said. “Even if you aren’t.”

I said nothing. I’d never heard anyone criticize my father except Shawn, and I wasn’t able to respond to it. I wanted to tell Charles about the Illuminati, but the words belonged to my father, and even in my mind they sounded awkward, rehearsed. I was ashamed at my inability to take possession of them. I believed then—and part of me will always believe— that my father’s words ought to be my own.

2 Answers 2


In your example


refers to the speaker and that the words the speaker was saying should belong to himself. It is about ownership.

However the speaker points out that the words he spoke

belonged to my father, and even in my mind they sounded awkward...I was ashamed at my inability to take possession of them.

and then he points out

that my father’s words ought to be my own

meaning that the meaning and sentiment of the words should have been rooted in himself and not his father, that he wished he had primary ownership. So that it might be

something he could call his own


The speaker here wants to convey that she is of the opinion that whatever her father said, i.e. believed, should be hers to say and believe. In other contexts it may also mean that she will honor any agreements her father entered into, as 'my word' can also imply 'my promises'.

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