Obligated or Obliged?

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Difference between "Obligated" and "Obliged"?

"Obligated" and "obliged" are easy to confuse because they both mean compelled to act. However, there is an importance difference between the verbs "obligate" and "oblige."
  • "Obligated" means to be morally or legally bound to do something.
    • As a result of the court's decision, I am obligated to apologize. correct tick
  • "Obliged" means to be in debt of gratitude because of a previous favor or service.
    • I am obliged to help with painting your fence because you helped with mine last year. correct tick
obligated or obliged?


"Obligated" means to be morally or legally bound to do something. When someone is "obligated" to do something, they have to comply (usually to comply with the law) regardless of their personal thoughts or interest.

Example sentence with "obligated":
  • I am obligated to give you a speeding ticket. correct tick
  • I am not contractually obligated to a sequel. (Actor Nicolas Cage) correct tick


"Obliged" means to feel the need to pay back a previous benefit or service.

Example sentences with "obliged":
  • I am obliged to take her to the airport because she showed my daughter how to do quadratic equations. correct tick
  • I feel obliged to contact you in regards to my fantastic experience at your hotel. correct tick

More about "Obligated" and "Obliged"

"Obligated" and "obliged" are the past participles of the verbs "to obligate" and "to oblige."

"Much Obliged"

The word "obliged" is commonly seen in the term "much obliged," which means "I am grateful."

Originally, this term carried the idea "I now owe you one." However, this connotation has been lost over time.

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