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I am confused about the usages of "duty" and "obligation"

It seems that I could write:

He failed in his duty to lead the team.

as standard English. Could I then write this also:

He failed in his obligation to lead the team.

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Good question. I think "duty" usually implies a sort of moral imperative A duty is something that affects you inwardly. Although the team looked up to him as a leader, he failed in his duty to lead the team.

"Obligation" usually implies a legal or rule-based imperative. It is the result of some kind of external constraint. Although his contract stated that he was the team leader, he failed in his obligation to lead the team.

  • So, "he failed in his obligation to lead the team" is indisputable standard English, even thought I cannot find it in dictionaries? – meatie Jul 17 '14 at 4:44
  • @meatie obligation is in the dictionary: A social, legal, or moral requirement, duty, contract, or promise that compels someone to follow or avoid a particular course of action. – Jim Jul 17 '14 at 5:30
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    Dictionaries don't have combinations of words, they just have single words. Google ngrams can be used to look at the frequency of usage of word combinations: books.google.com/ngrams/… – Jim Jul 17 '14 at 5:34

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