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a. The computer should be repaired soon. You better start repairing it now.

b. The computer ought to be repaired soon. You better start repairing it now.

c. The computer must be repaired soon. You better start repairing it now.

Are all of the above grammatically correct and meaningful?

Is there a difference in the meanings?

Here 'should' and 'ought to' are supposed to express necessity and not likelihood.

I think they all work and (c) is more emphatic.

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Both a. and b. sound like you're expecting that the computer will be repaired soon (by someone else), so "You better start repairing it now" doesn't make sense until you read the first sentence again. Then it makes sense.

Sentence c. can only have one meaning, so it's easy to understand.

Also:

d. "The computer needs to be repaired soon..."

works.

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  • 1
    Another alternative is "the computer is supposed to be repaired soon." Note as well "You better" should be "You'd better" or "You had better".
    – Peter
    Oct 23 '21 at 6:13
  • @Peter That has the same problem as examples a. and b., where the sentence is ambiguous. It could mean roughly, "The computer must be repaired soon" or "The computer will probably be repaired soon."
    – gotube
    Oct 24 '21 at 4:18
  • True. And "the computer must be repaired soon" might mean that the speaker is becoming very anxious about the repair being completed (by somebody else) before a deadline. Perhaps using active voice is clearest here. Of course in a workshop it is usually obvious that there is nobody else who is going to do the job.
    – Peter
    Oct 24 '21 at 7:07
  • @Peter Agreed. In that case, the intent is still that "The computer needs to be fixed". It's just being stated by the person at the needing end, rather than the doing end. Also agreed that active voice, "You should fix that computer soon", would fix the problem more neatly, and allow use of the softer "should" or "ought to", rather than "must" or "need".
    – gotube
    Oct 24 '21 at 7:30

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