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  ENGLISH GRAMMAR for ESL learners  



Should and ought to are interchangeable for advice and conclusions :
  • You should / you ought to write to your grandmother.
  • He has revised all day; he should / he ought to be ready for his exam.

Should is also used :
  • In hypothetical situations :
    • Should anyone call, please take a message.
    • Should you need any help, just call me.
    • If I were you, I should leave.
      (In this last example, 'would' is often used today.)

  • With 'imagine', 'say' and 'think' to give tentative opinions :
    • I should think the journey will take about two hours.
    • I should imagine we'll get a reply next week.

Need expresses necessity.
  • In summer we need to drink more often (= it is necessary for us to drink often.)
  • You needn't / you don't need to take notes.  You'll get a summary.
    (=it is not necessary to take notes.)
  • Need I / Do I need to do this? (=Is it necessary for me to do this?).

  • Needn't have is used to refer to an action which was performed but later turned out to be unnecessary.
    • We needn't have rushed to the airport; the flight was delayed.
    • He needn't have taken a sweater; the weather was warm.

  • Didn't need to is used to refer to an action in the past which was not performed
    because there was no need for it. It was not necessary.
    • We didn't need to show our passports - ID cards were accepted.

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Please note that British English spelling is used on this website.

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