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9. Should, ought to, had better and supposed to

FORM 9

1 Introduction

2 Should and ought to

We use should and ought to to say what is the best thing or the right thing to do.
There is no difference in meaning.
You're not very well. Perhaps you should see a doctor.
Your uncle was very kind to me. I ought to write him a letter of thanks.
People shouldn't break / oughtn't to break their promises.
We can also use should and ought to in questions to ask for advice.
Where should I put this picture, do you think?
It's a difficult problem. How ought we to deal with it?

After should or ought to we can use a continuous form (be + an -ing form).
It's half past six already. I should be cooking the tea.
Why are you sitting here doing nothing? You ought to be working.

3 Had better

We use had better to say what is the best thing to do in a situation.
It's cold. The children had better wear their coats.
The neighbours are complaining. We'd better turn the music down.
My wife is waiting for me. I'd better not be late.
We could also use should or ought to in these examples, although had better is stronger.
The speaker sees the action as necessary and expects that it will happen.

4 Be supposed to

We use be supposed to when we are talking about the normal or correct way of doing things.
The guests are supposed to buy flowers for the hostess.
Look at these ca rs. This area is supposed to be kept clear of traffic.
The bus driver needs to concentrate. You're not supposed to talk to him.
How am I supposed to cook this? - It tells you on the packet.

We can use was/were supposed to for the past.
It's eleven o'clock. You were supposed to be here at ten thirty, you know.

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