Non-native here. The reason why this question confuses me is that this should be "took" based on what I have learnt in grammar classes. But that doesn't sound right. I am confused between take or must take. I feel it should be must since prescribed denotes authority. My friends are split between should take and take.


2 Answers 2


This is not the wording that is typically used in the UK. Normally you would say that "the doctor prescribed the medicine <as the object of 'prescribed' and then the dosage <in the form 'to be taken n times a day'>." So, for example:-

The doctor prescribed an antibiotic to be taken three times daily.

Given the particular phrasing one which you are working, the correct standard tense depends on the context to which the sentence applies.

Thus it might be that the the patient has just come out of the surgery with the prescription and is saying to the chemist (so before even starting the course of treatment)

The doctor prescribed that I must take the antibiotic three times a day.

Or it might be that something went wrong with the prescription and the patient go so ill that s/he is suing the doctor for damages. Both the medicine and the taking of the doses are fully in the past. Then you would expect:-

The doctor prescribed that I should take the antibiotic three times a day

  • The doctor prescribed that the child must take/take the medicine every 8 hours. If it boils down to these two, are they both the same? The question had all the above-mentioned choices as an answer, and only one of them is correct.
    – QuackQuack
    Jul 14, 2020 at 19:26
  • @QuackQuack Both take and must take mean essentially the same thing. It's still the same prescription. However, if must is used, it's emphasizing a greater negative consequence of not taking it than normal. If not taking it means death, then must is very important. If not taking it merely means a minor headache, then it would normally be left out. Note that the question does not give this level of context, so a single and definitive answer is not possible. (However, it's highly unusual to use should in the context of a prescription. At least idiomatically, I'd say that one's wrong.) Jul 14, 2020 at 19:58
  • @QuackQuack No, QuackQuack. In your question you have not provided the information necessary to determine which of your two alternatives is correct. If your sentence is a test question on its own with no context, it it a bad test question. If that is your problem, then without a context, ‘should’ is the safer bet.
    – Tuffy
    Jul 14, 2020 at 22:24

"The doctor prescribed that the child must take the medicine every 8 hours"
This is a little more emphatic and implies either that the reason the child is taking the medicine is very serious or that the doctor has some extra level of authority.

"The doctor prescribed that the child should take the medicine every 8 hours"
""The doctor prescribed that the child take the medicine every 8 hours"
These two have pretty much the exact same meaning. Any difference between them would be pedantic or quibbling at best

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