Given that we say things such as "I'd rather (that) you do it.", I'd expect "I had better (that) you do it." to be possible as well to mean "I would consider/find/have it better that you do it.", analogous to "I would consider/find/have it rather that you do it." (rather being the comparative of the archaic rathe).

However, a quick search would show that this isn't used and is likely ungrammatical. Is there any reason behind this?

  • 3
    The contraction I'd rather is short for I would rather, not had. You used to be able to say I would better (that) S, but not for several hundred years. Anyway, would rather is an idiomatic paraphrase for prefer, and had better is an idiomatic paraphrase for should. As idioms, they are not compositional, and don't follow whatever rules you expect. Idioms make their own rules; they're frozen, like individual words. Aug 15, 2014 at 15:33
  • Well, it's still good to know that I would better (that) S used to be possible. What may be idiom now might once have been governed by rules before. This question was a probe in that direction, however impractical it may be to analyze idioms. Aug 15, 2014 at 16:13

1 Answer 1


The reason is because. I'm sorry, but that's all there is to it. Had better takes an infinitive without to, not a that clause. It's possible to explain the historical process by which this happened, but not to explain why it happened that way.

By the way "I would have(/find/consider) it rather" is not idiomatic English either: "I would rather have it that ... " is idiomatic.

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