The difference between should / have to / had better

by | Feb 1, 2019 | English Grammar

Mohamed Abd

Community Contributor (Syria)

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The difference between words: [should], [have to] and [had better]

Today, I would like to write about something which is confusing for many people: “should”, “have to” and “had better”. 

► We use “should” when we want to say something is a good idea, but that there is a choice.

For example:

  • I’m not good at playing the piano. I should practice more often.

     

  • If you have the hiccups, you should drink a glass of water.

     

  • I can’t save much money. I shouldn’t go out for dinner so much.

 

► We use “have to” when we must do something and we DON’T have a choice.

For example:

  • I have to be at work by 9:00 am every morning.
  • We have to hand in our reports to the teacher on Friday.
  • I’m sorry, but I can’t have dinner with you on Sunday. I have to help my friend move.

► The expression “had better” is commonly misunderstood. It is used when we want to say that we have a choice about doing something, but that if we don’t do it, we are going to have a problem.

For example:

  • My test is in two days. I’d better start studying for it right away. (This means that if I don’t start studying for it right away, I’m going to fail the test.)

     

  • The boss is coming! You’d better get back to work! (This means that if you don’t get back to work, the boss will be very angry.)

     

  • My friend was late the last time we met. He’d better not be late for our date tonight! (This means that if he’s late, she’ll be very angry.)

 

▼ Sometimes, “have to” can be used as a strong recommendation.

For example:

– If you ever go to Paris, you have to go to the Louvre museum!

  • A: I don’t watch “Lost”.
    B: Oh really?! It’s an amazing show! You have to start watching it!

▼ In these examples, the person has a choice about going to the Louvre museum or watching the show “Lost”, but the other person is making the recommendation very strongly.

Thank you,

Mohamed Abd

 

 

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