English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

In the spirit of:

You can swim, can't you?
You should tell the truth, shouldn't you?
You'd be crazy to miss out, wouldn't you?

Can I say:

You better study, bettern't you?

It's listed at wiktionary as 'non-standard'.

  • When would or wouldn't you use this word?
  • What can I use instead if I'm trying to be a bit more formal?
share|improve this question
On the one hand you can say almost anything you want if people understand you. However, this is not something you would say. – Rachel Feb 8 '12 at 3:26
It's "You had better study, hadn't you?". But it still doesn't sound formal. Maybe "You should study, shouldn't you?" or "You ought to study, oughtn't you?" – Julia Feb 8 '12 at 3:26
Wiktionary isn't exactly a reliable source. Taking just the randomly-selected decade of the 90s, Google Books records 9 written instances. 8 of them are in the context of faulty language development in toddlers, and one is in an oddball collection of short stories (in large print, which may or may not mean anything), where this contraction is used by the doddery "oldest resident" in a nursing home. Voting to close as "too localised". – FumbleFingers Feb 8 '12 at 5:58
@FumbleFingers: also, to my American ears, if it sounds like anything, it sounds really British, like "mayn't I?", something out of CS Lewis child's voice. – Mitch Feb 8 '12 at 14:05
@CamJackson: I never mentioned the missing had / 'd, which as you say is common in casual speech. I thought you weren't a native speaker because we've had a lot of non-natives here trying to get the hang of contractions, forming patterns like yours and asking if it's okay to write them. The answer is normally "No, because native speakers never actually say that". I'm surprised if you've ever heard any adult say "bettern't", but perhaps Australian has diverged from British speech. If not, I don't understand the point of your question. – FumbleFingers Feb 9 '12 at 3:20
up vote 10 down vote accepted

How about, to sound more formal as you said, you say, 'You had better study, hadn't you?'

share|improve this answer
Ah yes, 'had' was the extra word I needed! – Cam Jackson Feb 8 '12 at 4:13

No, you mayn't say that! in "You better study" the word "had" is upposed to be understood before "better" and, imo, should be there. Rather say "You'd better study, hadn't you?"

share|improve this answer
Perhaps this is a cultural/regional thing, but I think "atrociously vulgar and belongs in the stable" is a little harsh... As I mentioned above, "You better X" is a pretty common thing to say in Australia, at least in casual conversation. Obviously you start to run in to problems if you want to put ", ***n't you?" on the end, but in general I don't think it's a huge deal, in itself, to drop the "'d" from "You'd better X." – Cam Jackson Feb 9 '12 at 1:49
Noted. Hadn't I better use a bit of restraint? – Pete Wilson Feb 9 '12 at 21:57
Hah! Yes, you hadn't! :) – Cam Jackson Feb 10 '12 at 0:02

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.