ほうがいい Japanese Grammar Lesson
Grammar Type: Phrase
Essential Meaning: X had better do Y
- Verb informal past + ほうがいい
- E.g. 話したほうがいい [X had better speak]
- E.g. 食べたほうがいい [X had better eat]
- ほうがいい expresses the idea that it is strongly suggested that someone do something (e.g. “You had better study harder” or “Matt had better eat his vegetables“). ほうがいい represents a strong suggestion rather than a command.
- ほうがいい is an idiomatic offshoot of ほうが~より.
- When the speaker gives a strong suggestion to a second person subject (e.g. “You had better do X.”) the subject is typically omitted. The subject is also generally omitted if the sentence is interrogative and the subject is the first person (e.g. “Is it better if I did X?“). When the subject is a third person (e.g. “John had better do X.“), the subject is usually not omitted.
- E.g. First Person Subject: もう帰ったほうがいいですか。[Had I better go home now?]
- E.g. Second Person Subject: 野菜も食べたほうがいいよ。[You’d better eat vegetables too.]
- E.g. Third Person Subject: クリスはもっと英語を勉強したほうがいいね。[Chris had better study English harder.]
- Verb informal nonpast (i.e. するほうがいい) can be used instead of verb informal past (i.e. したほうがいい) to convey a weaker suggestion.
- E.g. 日本語の本を読むほうがいい。[You should read a Japanese book.]
- To convey a negative suggestion (e.g. “You’d better not do X”), ないほうがいい can be used. In this case, the verb must be in the nonpast tense.
- E.g. コーヒーを飲まないほうがいい。[You’d better not drink coffee.]
- E.g. *コーヒーを飲まなかったほうがいい。[It would’ve been better if you hadn’t drunk coffee.] This sentence is ungrammatical because ほうがいい cannot be used with a negative past predicate.
もう帰ったほうがいいですか。[Had I better go home now?]
野菜も食べたほうがいいよ。[You’d better eat vegetables too.]
クリスはもっと英語を勉強したほうがいいね。[Chris had better study English harder.]
日本語の本を読んだほうがいい。[You’d better read Japanese books.]
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