Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Today's English lesson

From the American Heritage Book of English Usage:

Why, I oughta...

Ought is an auxiliary verb that usually takes to with its accompanying verb:
We ought to go.
Sometimes the accompanying verb is dropped if the meaning is clear:
Should we begin soon?
Yes, we ought to.
In questions and negative sentences, especially those with contractions, to is also sometimes omitted:
We ought not be afraid of the risks involved.
Oughtn’t we be going soon?
This omission of to, however, is not common in written English. Like must and auxiliary need, ought to does not change to show past tense:
He said we ought to get moving along.

Usages such as
He hadn’t ought to come.
She shouldn’t ought to say that.
are common in many varieties of American English. They should be avoided in written English, however, in favor of the more standard variant ought not to.
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