Had Better: Meaning, Form, and Common Errors

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Had better, should, if I were you
Use “Had better” for strong or urgent advice or for threats.


We use “had better” for strong advice, urgent advice (for others and yourself), and threats. 

  • You had better do the dishes before your mom comes home. [Strong advice]
  • You had better run! Your train is coming. [Urgent advice]
  • I‘d better put the turkey in the oven now or it won’t be ready in time. 
  • You‘d better shut your mouth, or I’ll shut it for you. [Threat]


“Had better” refers to the immediate future, but its form is always past. 

  • You have better do the dishes.
  • You had better do the dishes.

Follow “had better” with a bare infinitive form (the base form of the verb). 

  • You had better doing the dishes.
  • You had better do the dishes. 

Do not forget the auxiliary “had.”

  • Whoever is in there better come out.
  • Whoever is in there had better come out.