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?
  • 6
    On the one hand you can say almost anything you want if people understand you. However, this is not something you would say.
    – Rachel
    Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 3:26
  • 2
    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
    Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 3:26
  • 1
    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". Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 5:58
  • 1
    @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
    Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 14:05
  • 1
    @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. Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 3:20

3 Answers 3


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

  • Ah yes, 'had' was the extra word I needed! Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 4:13

I've only heard this word widely used in Devon, England. I was living in Plymouth, and people say bettern't you, bettern't he... all the time. You get used to it, and I always consider this is part of the Devon dialect.

edit: I was living in Devon between 1983-1995.

Here is a link to the transcript of a recording from a BBC programme discussing Devon accent and slangs, the original page was archived and recordings deleted, so only the transcript is available. https://sounds.bl.uk/related-content/TEXTS/021T-C1190X0013XX-0501A0.pdf

  • I find this is a pretty useful answer, so I hope you can add some link. Otherwise when it comes to a vote, some might vote to delete it.
    – S Conroy
    Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 18:48
  • 1
    @SConroy Yes, I think it's useful too. My view is that links are desirable but not mandatory, and detail of the person's own experience with a given usage can be valuable information. "Heresay evidence" is admissible, it's just given less weight. To Macbrush: you could improve your answer by adding timeframes - e.g. "I was living in Plymouth 1980-2015". Use the edit link. For more guidance on improving your posts, see How to Answer. I can also recommend the Tour :-) Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 2:23
  • That is absolutely fascinating! I grew up in Australia but half my family is from Bath, Somerset, and my grandparents on that side both spoke with very thick West Country accents their entire lives. I wonder if "bettern't" is buried somewhere deep in my subconscious from hearing them say it in my childhood. Thank you for sharing, @macbrush! Commented Jun 22, 2021 at 12:07
  • @fumblefingers I'm not sure if you remember this question from 10 years ago, but given how vehemently you were against "bettern't", you might be interested to know that it is in fact, a feature of some West Country dialects. I may well have picked it up from my grandparents. Commented Jan 24, 2022 at 9:04

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?"

  • 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." Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 1:49
  • Noted. Hadn't I better use a bit of restraint? Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 21:57
  • Hah! Yes, you hadn't! :) Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 0:02

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