Sunday, September 9

Should, Ought to, Had better

First of all, it’s time to change your wrong idea about the Modal Verb “Should.”

Many learners of English think that “Should” is just as strong as “Must” and “Have to.” This isn’t true.

(For a quick review of the Modal Verbs, please watch:

In fact, “Should” is just a middle-level Modal Verb in terms of strength. “Should” is used to give advice to someone or to share your opinion about something.

For example,

1.       I think you should buy the pink T-shirt.

2.       The government should spend more money on education.

3.       She should be home by now.  (=> this is a guess)

It isn’t as strong as “Must” or “Have to.”

Today, we’re going to concentrate on the first situation of the word “Should,” which is to give advice or recommendations.

There are 3 Modal Verbs you can use to give advice. They are:

·         Should

·         Ought to

·         Had better

So you can say:

·         You should study English.

·         You ought to study English.

·         You had better study English.

All of these sentences are correct, and all of them give advice to someone else. They mean that it’s a good idea for someone to do something.

But what’s the difference between them?

Should vs. Ought to

First, “Should” and “Ought to” are almost exactly the same. So, if you’re more familiar with using “Should,” you have nothing to worry about.

These days, fewer people are using the question form of “Ought to”:

Ought I to study English?

And its negative form:

You ought not to study English.

It is rare in North American English and formal in British English.

 “Should” is now more widely usedIts negative form is less formal:

You shouldn’t study English.

but carries the same meaning.

Should vs. Had Better

Had better” is another Modal Verb used to give advice.

So if you say:

You should quit smoking.

You can also say:

You had better quit smoking.

What’s the difference? you might ask.

Although “Had better” also gives advice like “Should” and “Ought to,” it’s stronger than them. This is because “Had better” also has the meaning of warning or negative consequence.

Consequence” means the bad thing or negative effect that will happen if you don’t follow the advice.

For example,

1.       You had better study.

2.       You had better clean your room.

3.       You had better take this medicine.

All of the sentences above carry the meaning of warning. So, their complete versions would be something like:

1.       You had better study. (If you don’t, you will fail the test.)

2.       You had better clean your room. (Or I won’t give you your allowance.)

3.       You had better take this medicine. (If you don’t, your fever will get worse and you will miss your lessons.)

This is the negative form of “Had better”:

You had better not forget my birthday.

Please remember that both “Should” and “Had better,” in their positive and negative forms, do not use “to.”


You had better” is commonly shortened to “You’d better.” It is very common to hear this.

Some people also say:

You better do what I tell you.

Without the “ ’d .”

For you as non-native English learners, it's better if you keep the “ ‘d ” in your speech.

Hope you learned something! 

;-) Registered & Protected

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