Giving advice

July 22, 2011

We can use several different structures to give advice in English.

Using should

You should see him.
You should consult a doctor.
You should do something now.
You should not confront him.
You should not borrow money.
You should be punctual.
You should be more careful.

Using ought

Ought (to) can be used to give advice. Note that ought to is less frequent than should.

You ought to be punctual.
One ought to love one’s country.
You ought to take him to a psychiatrist.

Grammar notes

Note that should is followed by an infinitive without to. Ought is followed by an infinitive with to.

Using must

Must has similar meanings to should and ought, but is stronger. Although must can be used to give advice, it is not preferred when you want to sound polite.

Compare:

You should / ought to stop smoking. (A gentle piece of advice)
You must stop smoking. (An order)
You must mend your ways. (Stronger than ‘You should mend your ways’)

Using had better

We can use had better to give advice.

You had better consult a doctor.
You had better mend your ways.
You had better give me my watch back.

Notes

Had better is not normally used when you want to sound polite.

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