Monday, 17 December 2012

Modal Phrases (Had Better and Would Rather)


Semi-modal multi-word constructions 'had better' and 'would rather' are followed by the infinitive without to.

Examples: 
  • We had better go into the house because it is raining. 
  • I can come today but I would rather come tomorrow.

Had Better

'Had better' expresses advice and means 'would find it wiser or more suitable'.
E.g.: You had better go now (=it would be good, wise or suitable for you to go now).

Synonyms: ought to do something / should do something.

In negative structures, better comes before not.
E.g.: You had better not go now.

Patterns. Read and memorize!
  1. We had better take an umbrella. It may rain. (We’d (1) better…) 
  2. He’d better stop and have a rest if he feels tired. 
  3. You’d better go on the excursion. 
  4. You had better not eat so much. (You’d better…) 
  5. Hadn’t you better hurry if you want to catch the eight o’clock train? (2) 
  6. What had I better put on for the party?
Note 1: - The contracted form ‘d is very common.
Note 2: - The negative form 'hadn't better' is used mainly in questions: Hadn't we better try again later?

►'Had' is sometimes dropped in very informal speech.
E. g. : You better go now. 
           I better try again later.


Would Rather

'Would rather' expresses choice and means 'would prefer to do something'.
E.g.: I would rather you didn't help them (=I would prefer it if you didn't help them).

Patterns. Read and memorize!
  • I would rather stay at home than go to the cinema. It’s raining. 
  • 'How about a drink?' – 'I’d (1) rather have something to eat.' 
  • I’d rather take a taxi than walk home (it’s too late). 
  • The children would rather play in the garden than go to bed. 
  • Would you rather write a composition or a dictation? 
  • Would he rather read J. Galsworthy or W. Faulkner?
Note 1: - The contracted form ‘d is very common.

► 'Would rather' can be used with different subjects before and after it, to say that one person would prefer another to do something. In this case, a past tense is generally used with a present or future meaning.

E. g. :  I’d rather you went home now.
            Don’t come tomorrow. I’d rather you came next weekend.

To talk about past actions, past perfect tense is used.

E. g. : I’d rather you hadn’t done that.

Go to the 'Modal Verbs: Must' page