Curious Question #15 – Had Better

You had better listen to this episode! Did you understand this first sentence? If you didn’t, check out this episode and hear us explain “had better” for you. We will also give you lots of examples of how to use it.

Expressions included in the learning materialsquestions

  • Had better
  • Ought to
  • Situations when we use “had better” Here are some more specific descriptions of when you can use “had better.” In all these examples there are still bad consequences implied.
    1. Giving strong advice She had better do her homework. (This sentence is stronger than “She should do her homework.”)
    2. As a warning You had better stay home tonight. (This is said by a parent to their teenage child.)
    3. Hope He had better call me tonight. (I hope he calls me tonight.)
    4. Must do something (with urgency) I had better do my homework. (The work needs to be done right away.)

Sample transcript

Harp: Let’s explain “had better” just a little bit. OK, so when you use “he had better,” or “we had better” or “she had better,” basically you are saying that they have to, they should, they must do something or…

Robin: Something bad will happen.

Harp: Exactly! So it is a fixed expression to say that you have to do something or something bad will happen and the something bad, we don’t always say that in the expression, you could say he had better do blah blah blah… you don’t always have to say the bad part, the consequence.

Robin: Absolutely, absolutely, and a perfect example is “Wow, this room it’s caught fire, everything is burning, we had better leave.” OK?

Harp: Exactly, because it is implied that if we stay, we are going to be burned, we are going to die, something bad will happen.

Robin: Something bad might happen. Probably will happen, actually. Can you think of any other examples, Harp?

Harp: Well, the one that always comes to mind for me is my father always said “You’d better go to school or you will end up on the street.” He always, always said this to me. My parents value education a lot.

Robin: And it is interesting what you said: “you’d better.” Now a lot of times in spoken English we don’t say “you had better.” It becomes a little bit long and in fact it sounds stronger when you say, “you had better go to school.” A lot of times we just say “you’d better.


english PodcastAudio/Learning Materials: Culips