• Alex

Using HAD BETTER in English (with practice questions!)

HAD BETTER is a semi-modal verb phrase that is used to give strong advice in English. It is often considered a semi-modal verb because it follows the conventions of other modal verbs (can, could, should, will, would, may, might) despite having two parts.


It is different from other advice verbs because it implies a threat or a danger if the advice is not followed. You can also use it to provide a sense of desperation.



You had better call me after work. (If you don't call me, there will be negative consequences; depending on the tone of the speaker, this can also be received as a threat by the listener)


We had better leave. (If we don't leave, there could be negative consequences; perhaps we will be late for our next engagement, or we feel unwelcome where we currently are)


We had better run! (If we don't run, there is a good chance something bad will happen)



Here are some important things to keep in mind when using HAD BETTER:


  • Its form does not change regardless of the subject.

I/You/He/She/It/We/They had better...(+base verb)


  • Its negative form is constructed as HAD BETTER NOT. (+base verb)

I'd better not go outside today. I'm sick.


  • It cannot be used to talk about the past. It is only used for the present and future.

You'd better not try to use "had better" in the past. It doesn't exist!


  • In speaking, it is often contracted with the subject. ('d better)

I'd better talk to him.

You'd better not bother her.

He'd better be serious about this.

She'd better have a solution ready.

It'd better work. (or the nonstandard This'd better work.)

We'd better bring our umbrellas.

They'd better not ignore us this time.


  • In questions, it is much more common to use it with a yes/no construction. It is rare and awkward to use it in open information questions. Questions with HAD BETTER are constructed with the subject in the middle of the phrase.

Had we better bring cash?

Hadn't we better practice more?

What had we better do? (Not common. Just ask "What do we have to do?" or

"What should we do?" instead)


  • If you want to express your preference for something, DO NOT use HAD BETTER. Use WOULD RATHER instead.

"I'd rather drink water instead of juice." (This is my general preference)

"I'd better drink water instead of juice." (Water is better for me. I need to drink it

for my health)


Now it's your turn!

To practice HAD BETTER, what strong advice would you give in the following situations?


Your friend is very sick. (Ex. "He'd/She'd better...")

You forgot your sister's birthday. (Ex. "I'd better...")

You need to go to the store, but it's raining outside.

Your fridge is almost empty.

Your friend wants to reunite with his/her old boyfriend/girlfriend, but you remember that their relationship was terrible.

Your friend needs to learn a new computer program for their job.


Leave your answers in the comments. Good luck!

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