Learning English? Then you’re obligated to read this article.
We have learned over the course of this series that two words that sound alike don’t always have the same meaning. Once in a while, we get word pairs that sound so alike and have meanings that are pretty similar that differentiating one from the other can be pretty tricky. The words obliged and obligated are only two of many examples. Both obligated and obliged are what we call transitive verbs in the English language. This means that it is an action word that is always paired with a direct object.
As we dive into the details of their difference, make sure to pay attention to the details because they make a whole world of difference.
The word obligated is the past tense of obligate, which means to require someone to do something as a legal or moral duty. Here are some examples of how we use the word.
I am obligated by my job to tell you the risks of this procedure.
Candice is obligated to stay at the studio until they finish filming for the day.
On the other hand, the word obliged is the past tense of oblige, which means to make someone legally or morally bound to do something. Here are examples of how to use the word.
Carl was much obliged to pitch his product to the investors.
Alice was obliged to compliment the chef for their dinner.
As you would notice, the difference between the two is very subtle. The word obligated often has a moral or legal sense attached to it. When you are obligated to do something, it means you have to do it; otherwise, there will be legal and/or moral repercussions. When you are obliged to do something, either you are willing to do something without any return or you are willing to do something because you are indebted to do so, ergo the phrase much obliged.
Latin is once more to blame (as is often the case) for their similarity. Both words are rooted in the Latin word obligare (ob- [toward] + -ligare [to bind]). Its past participle, obligatus, later evolved into obligate. Obligare was also adapted into Old French as obliger and later made its way into English as oblige. Since the words didn’t travel far across multiple languages, they retained most of their original meanings, only in different senses.
So how do you know when to use which? Easy. If you’re being forced to do something, you’re obligated to do it. If you want to do something without seeking any return, you’re obliged to do it. Like we said at the opening of this article, this is something you’re obligated to know as a student of English. We at 1-Hour Proofreading are obliged to teach it to you.