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re using 'better' "You had better do that" (meaning you should do that) or "You better do that": are they both correct? If so, what part of speech is the word 'better' in each case?

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  • They're both correct, though informal.
    – Era
    Dec 8, 2015 at 19:13

2 Answers 2

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The structure normally is "You had better go home now, you are drunk". I take it that "had" is a subjunctive form, as an indicative makes absolutely no sense. But even when interpreted as subjunctive the expression is somehow twisted and not very logical. It seems speakers try to improve this twisted expression by dropping "had". You don't read "you better go home now" so often, but it is possible.

As the formula is twisted and possibly elliptic it is futile to rack one's brain about better. It is the normal word, either adjective or adverb. I racked my brain about "had". Perhaps it was "did* (subjunctive), shortened to "'d" and confused with "had/'d". A mere idea, I have no evidence for this assumption.

Oh yes, there is a kind of evidence. The German parallel would be: Du tästest besser daran heimzugehen. That is an expression that makes sense and "tätest" would correspond to an English subjunctive did*.

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Yes, they are both correct. "Better" is an adverb in each case and "had" is an auxiliary verb. Together they form the modal idiom "had better", which is typically used to advise the best course of action.

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