You’ll learn how to use ‘had better’ and we’ll also explain the difference between should, must and had better.
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Had better is used to give strong advice to someone, or to yourself. It means ‘It would be a very good idea to…’
Had better can be used to give stronger advice than should, but usually isn’t used to give such a strong sense of obligation as ‘must’.
It looks like a past form, but it’s used to refer to the present or the future.
It’s followed by a verb in the infinitive, without ‘to’ and it’s often contracted:
“You’d better tidy up your room before mum gets home. I’d better take my car in for service.”
“I’d better leave now so that I miss the rush hour traffic.”
Negatives with ‘had better’
Use had better not/’d better not for the negative:
“You’d better not drive home. You’ve had too much to drink.”
“We’d better not get there too early.”
“You’d better not say that again!”
Questions with ‘had better’
To make the question form, you need to invert the subject and had. It’s similar to should, but it’s more formal:
“Had I better speak to the boss before I send this email? What do you think?”
Negative questions with had better are more common than affirmative ones:
“Hadn’t we better leave home at 6? I don’t want to miss the flight.”
Notice that the word order is different depending on whether you use the contraction in a negative question:
“Hadn’t you better ask the price before you order the wine?” (contracted – Hadn’t you better….) / “Had you not better ask the price before you order the wine?” (not contracted – Had you not better….)
“Hadn’t we better knock on the door first, then go in?” / “Had we not better knock on the door first, then go in?”
“Hadn’t you better follow this podcast on your app?” / “Had you better not follow this podcast on your app? You don’t want to miss any episodes!”
We don’t use ‘had better’ to ask people politely to do things:
“Would you mind confirming that by email?”
XYou’d better confirm….X – IMPOSING OBLIGATION OR ORDERING
“Do you think you could come earlier?”
XYou’d better come earlier.X – IMPOSING OBLIGATION OR ORDERING
‘Had better’ tends to imply consequences if the advice is not followed:
“We’ve kidnapped your son. You had better follow our instructions carefully if you want to see him alive again.”
“I told you I’d leave you forever if you didn’t stop drinking. You’d better not go to the pub with your mates tonight. I’m warning you!”
What advice would you give to a friend who….
has been working too hard?
has trouble sleeping?
wants to improve their listening in English?
is very tired?
has just been made redundant?
has a bad toothache?
has just got married?
wants to do an intensive, professional B2 or C1 English course online?
…and now it’s your turn to practise your English.
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In next week’s episode: Funfair and circus vocabulary
The music in this podcast is by Pitx. The track is called ‘See You Later’