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Had Better

"Had better" is most commonly used to make recommendations. It can also be used to express desperate hope as well as warn people.

Examples:

  • You had better take your umbrella with you today. recommendation
  • That bus had better get here soon! desperate hope
  • You had better watch the way you talk to me in the future! warning

Using "Had Better" in Present, Past, and Future

Most modal verbs behave quite irregularly in the past and the future. Study the chart below to learn how "had better" behaves in different contexts.

Use Positive Forms
1. = Present   2. = Past   3. = Future
Negative Forms
1. = Present   2. = Past   3. = Future
Also use:
had better
recommendation
1. SHIFT TO "SHOULD" OR "OUGHT TO"
People should unplug toasters before they clean them.

2. SHIFT TO "SHOULD HAVE" OR "OUGHT TO HAVE"
You should have unplugged the toaster before you tried to clean it.

3. You had better unplug the toaster before you try to clean it.

1. SHIFT TO "SHOULD" OR "OUGHT TO"
People shouldn't clean toasters without unplugging them first.

2. SHIFT TO "SHOULD HAVE" OR "OUGHT TO HAVE"
You shouldn't have cleaned the toaster without unplugging it first.

3. You had better not clean the toaster until you unplug it.

should,
ought to
had better
desperate hope,
warning
The movie had better end soon.

They had better be here before we start dinner.

Desperate hopes and warnings usually refer to the near future.

They had better not be late.

They had better not forget Tom's birthday gift.

Desperate hopes and warnings usually refer to the near future.

"Had better" is often simply pronounced as "better" in spoken English.

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