What Are Ought to and Had Better?
'Ought to' and 'had better' are two semi-modal verbs in English grammar. This pair of verbs are common among native speakers and are used in different contexts, but they are also a little bit tricky. Make sure to study them carefully.
As it was mentioned above, these two are semi-modal verbs. These kinds of verbs are sometimes used as modal verbs and other times used as the main verbs in statements.
Be careful that only because of 'to' in 'ought to' and 'better' in 'had better' these verbs are called semi-modals. They have all the other characteristics of modal verbs and are never used without the main verb in sentences. Study the following examples carefully:
Just like other modal verbs, this pair is used with the simple form of the verb in statements. Look at the examples below:
Here as you can see, ('d better) is the short form of 'had better'.
As you can see, 'ought' always comes with the preposition 'to'.
As you can see, not comes between 'ought' and 'to.
In informal conversations 'oughtn't to' is used, but never in formal, written English.
Pay attention to the question form of these semi-modal verbs:
Here, pay attention to where the subject and the modal verb are placed.
These two semi-modal verbs are used in contexts as listed below:
- Recommendation and Giving Advice in Specific Situations
Another use of 'ought to' is to show the likelihood or probability of an even in the present or in the near future. Pay attention to the example below:
With all this fog, it
Here the sentence shows that with such weather, it will probably rain.
Recommendation and Giving Advice in Specific Situations
This pair of semi-modals is mainly used when we want to recommend someone to do something or give someone a simple piece of advice. Study the following examples carefully:
As you can see, there is no force. He/she can make a choice to do it or not to do it.
Sometimes, 'ought to' is used to show obligation and that something must be done. Remember not to use 'had better' in such cases. Look at the example below:
As you can see, the sentence shows that it is a necessity for her to study.
Another use of this pair of semi-modals can be expecting something from someone or desiring a result now or in the near future. Pay attention to the following examples:
As you can see, if the desired result is not achieved, there will be negative consequences.