English is not my native language, so I'm wondering, should I say:

I'd better go away now.


I better go away now.

or even (I think I've heard this one):

I better go now.

Thanks in advance!

  • What makes you think that any of those are right or wrong?
    – Nick2253
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 16:11

1 Answer 1


Opinions are varied, but Fowler probably sums up the situation best (the following, tidied, from The Grammarphobia Blog ):

Using “better” by itself is fine except in formal English. “In a wide range of informal circumstances (but never in formal contexts) the had or ’d can be dispensed with,” Fowler’s says.

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage calls “had better” a standard English idiom and agrees with Fowler’s that “better,” when used alone in this sense, “is not found in very formal surroundings.”

The Oxford English Dictionary’s earliest citation for the construction without “had” is from a pseudonymous letter to a newspaper by “Major Jack Downing”:

“My clothes had got so shabby, I thought I better hire out a few days and get slicked up a little.” (The letter was published in a book in 1834 but was written in 1831.)

The OED says the abbreviated usage originated in the US, and labels it a colloquialism. But Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.) lists it without reservations.

The Merriam-Webster’s editors give the example “you better hurry,” and says “better” in this sense is a “verbal auxiliary.”

It should be noted that even the full phrase, “had better,” was criticized by some in the 19th century on the ground that it was illogical and couldn’t be parsed: an 1897 issue of the Ohio Educational Monthly says many teachers found “had better” and other idioms “very difficult to dispose of grammatically.”

  • You better watch out, / You better not cry, / You better not pout, / I'm telling you why: / Santa Claus is coming to town!
    – tchrist
    Commented Apr 4, 2015 at 1:35
  • Obviously a more highly respected authority than most whose names we drop here. However, when it comes to choosing the lyrics, Bruce Springsteen and John Michael Montgomery seem to be more prescriptivist. Commented Apr 4, 2015 at 11:21

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