Advice: the modals should, ought to & had better
In North American English, advice is most often given using should. The advice can be direct when one person talks to another or to themselves, or indirect when the person isn’t giving the advice to the person, but is saying what he/she believes is the right thing to do. Should is always followed by the simple form of the verb.
You should be more careful crossing the street. (talking directly to the person)
They should try and save some money for the future. (saying what you believe is right)
She should tell her father everything. (saying what you believe is right)
Ought to is not used as much, but sometimes you hear it.
You ought to see a dentist about that toothache.
There ought to be a law against that.
I ought to give my daughter a cell phone.
In the negative shouldn’t is used 99% of the time. Ought not to or ought not are correct but are rarely used. (NEVER use oughtn’t to)
We shouldn’t interrupt his phone call.
We ought not to interrupt his phone call. (rarely said.)
We ought not interrupt his phone call. (rarely said.)
You shouldn’t leave your dirty clothes on the floor.
You ought not to leave your dirty clothes on the floor. (rarely said.)
You ought not leave your dirty clothes on the floor. (rarely said.)
Her parents shouldn’t dictate what kind of wedding she has.
Her parents ought not to dictate what kind of wedding she has. (rarely said.)
Her parents ought not dictate what kind of wedding she has. (rarely said.)
In the interrogative (question form) only should is used.
Should we leave for the theater now?
(NEVER: Ought we to leave for the theater now?)
Should I go help them with their move?
(NEVER: Ought I to go help them with their move?)
Shouldn’t you be studying for your test tomorrow?
(NEVER: Ought not you to be studying for your test tomorrow?)
Another modal to use for advice is had better or ’d better. These words are very strong. When you use them, you are saying that there will be a bad result if the person doesn’t do what you advise. The simple form of the verb follows.
You’d better remember your keys this time. (Bad result = not being able to unlock doors.)
He’d better pay me back by Friday. (Bad result = I’ll get angry.)
We had better not be late for class. (Bad result = The professor won’t like it.)
NOTE: When people speak, they often drop the middle word and say You better, He better, We better, etc., but don’t write it this way When writing, always include “had” or ” ‘d.”
If you want to say the result (which is in the future), add or before it.
You’d better get here on time, or you’ll miss the beginning of the movie.
She had better not forget to bring the tickets, or we won’t be able to get in.
I’d better get started, or I won’t finish on time.
There are other ways to give advice without using modals. The first of these is If I were you, I would or just I would. This is the present conditional (Conditional II), so remember to use were instead of was.
If I were you, I would apologize to her immediately.
I would apologize to her immediately.
If I were you, I would place that sofa against the far wall.
I would place that sofa against the far wall.
If I were you, I would think twice about making him jealous.
I would think twice about making him jealous.
A second way to give advice is to say My advice is to. This is followed by the simple form of the verb.
My advice is to start planning your vacation right away.
My advice is to stop complaining and do something.
My advice is to buy a monthly bus pass.
Lastly, you can also give advice after a bad result has already happened. The past modals should have, ought to have and had better have are used. These are all followed by the past participle of the verb.
You should have finished your homework before you went to bed.
You shouldn’t have wasted all those years.
You ought to have remembered his name.
You ought not to have made them angry at you.
You’d better have apologized to her for saying that.
You’d better not have forgotten the traveler’s cheques.
Study this page and when you think you’re ready, do the following exercise.
© 2013 Ambien Malecot