Had Better vs. Would Rather

'Would better' and 'would rather' are very different but they are confused by many learners. In this lesson, we will find out why.

"Had Better" vs. "Would Rather" in the English grammar

What Is Their Main Difference?

The main difference between 'had better' and 'would rather' is in the message they convey. 'Had better' expresses advice while 'would rather' expresses preference.

Had better

'Had better' is a phrase counted as a 'semi-modal verb.'
'Had better' is used to give advice. It is mainly used in its contracted form and to give warnings. Have a look:

She'd better keep on studying.

They'd better fix the AC as soon as possible.

Would rather

'Would rather' is used to express what we prefer to do over another thing. For example:

I'd rather be with my family than those people.

He'd rather be alone than being with us.

Why Are They Confused?

'Had better' and 'would rather' are confused due to their similarity in their contracted form. Watch:

I'd better leave soon.

I'd rather read the book than watch the movie.

As you can see in the examples above, they cannot be used interchangeably, and their only similarity is in their contracted form.

Meanings

Had better

We use 'had better' to express advice (in other words, give advice) or give warnings towards a specific event or action. Have a look:

They'd better report them to the police.

She'd better be home by nine, or she is grounded.

Would rather

We use 'would rather' to express what we prefer over another thing or express our choice between a couple of options. Have a look:

I'd rather read books than listen to audiobooks.

They'd rather eat vegetables than fish.

Structure

Affirmative Form

We follow the patterns illustrated below to create an affirmative form with 'had better' and 'would rather' respectively:

  • Subject + 'd better + base verb + ….
  • Subject + 'd rather + base verb + ….

Here are some examples:

I'd better keep my distance.

He'd rather wear nothing than wear this outfit.

Negative Form

We follow the patterns illustrated below to create a negative form with 'had better' and 'would rather' respectively:

  • Subject + 'd better + not + base verb + ….
  • Subject + 'd rather + not + base verb + ….

For instance:

He'd better not ruin tonight's date.

She'd rather not take that job offer.

Interrogative Form

We follow the patterns illustrated below to create questions with 'had better' and 'would rather' respectively:

  • Would + subject + rather + base verb + …?
  • Had + subject + better + base verb + …?

Have a look:

Had we better leave her alone?

Would you rather watch a movie or play a game?

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