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Had Better vs. Be Better To

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Common mistakes

  1. (NG) You had better to go there right away.
    1. (OK) You had better go there right away.
  2. (NG) You had better visit Central Park in the summer.
    1. (OK) It’s better to visit Central Park in the summer.

Grammar words and phrases in context

New York is an exciting city. I know that because I am a native New Yorker! Well, I had better get to my main point. In New York, the summers are hot and the winters are cold, so if you are planning a visit, I think it’s better to come in the spring or the fall.

We use the phrase had better to give a warning. Had better has the nuance that if you don’t do that thing, something bad might happen. The grammar is had better followed by a verb.

  1. If it’s a cold winter day, and you have just taken a shower, before you go outside you had better dry your hair. You had better dry your hair before you go outside because if you don’t, you might catch a cold.
  2. The doctor told Joe that his health is at risk. He had better stop smoking.
  3. You have an important exam tomorrow? You had better study for it if you want to get a good grade.

These days, in conversational English you can often hear people use this phrase without had.

  1. You better dry your hair before going out.
  2. He better stop smoking.
  3. You have an important exam tomorrow? You better study for it if you want to get a good grade.

We use the phrase it’s better to when we want to give someone a suggestion and that suggestion is based on a choice. The grammar is it’s better to + verb. For example:

  • If you want to travel from Times Square to the World Trade Center during rush hour, it’s better to take a subway than a bus.
  • The oyster bar serves steak as well as seafood, but since it’s the oyster bar, I think it’s better to order fish.
  • The weather forecast said we’re going to have a snowstorm tomorrow, so I think it’s better to stay home and work from home than it is to drive to the office.

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