How to use “had better”

“Had better” is normally used with infinitive without to to give advice about specific situations or make recommendations.

We use the same form for the present, past or future without changing the “had” into “have”.

The short form is ‘d better.

You’d better go to school now.
He’d better tell her all about it.
You’d better phone Sam and tell her you’re sorry.
We’d better leave now before it gets dark.

In informal spoken English, you can use “had best” instead of “had better”.

You’d best go home and sleep, you must be exhausted.
She’d best not tell anyone about it.

The negative form

The negative form is “had better not” (‘d better not):

  • You’d better not tell her anything about our plan.
  • We’d better not be late for the meeting.
  • They’d better not forget about mum’s birthday.

The question form

The question form is made by inverting the subject and had. This has the same meaning as “should”, but is more formal:

  • Had we better set off earlier tomorrow morning? It might rain in the afternoon.
  • Had you better leave her a message so she knows we’re coming?
  • Hadn’t we better leave before it gets dark?


Don’t use “had better” to talk about preferences. Use “would rather” instead.

  • I’d rather walk home, it’s a lovely evening. (not: I’d better walk home)

Common mistake:

Some English learners don’t pronounce ‘d when speaking (you better stay at home), but remember to use it in your writing (you’d better stay at home).

How to Use "Had Better"
How to use “had better”

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