Many years ago, I had the following conversation with one of my students.
Ian: Could you recommend a good restaurant?
Student: You had better go to that ramen shop.
I was a bit surprised by her answer because it seemed very strong to me. I said to her:
Ian: Had better is a bit strong. It’s more natural to use should to give advice.
Student: Okay, but how are they different?
Today, I’m going to answer her question and talk about the difference between had better and should.
Let’s start by looking at had better. Had better is a very strong way to give advice. It often sounds like an indirect threat or strong warning, so it can be a bit impolite. For example:
◆You were late to work again today. You had better not be late tomorrow!
◆You had better finish the report by the end of the day or the boss will be angry.