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1. Modals of advice

Modal verbs of advice are a type of modal verb used mainly to give or ask for advice. These modal verbs are should, ought to and had better.
You shouldn't smoke.
You ought to practice more.

2. Structure of modals of advice

Should, ought to and had better have the same meaning. However, ought to is usually used in more formal contexts.

The structure of the modals of advice is as follows:

  Form Examples
Subject + should 
ought to 
had / 'd better1
+ infinitive
You should go and see your grandmother once a week.
With this temperature you ought to visit the doctor.
You'd better go to the dentist.
Subject + shouldn't 
ought not to2 
had / 'd better not1
+ infinitive
They shouldn't take that train, it doesn't stop in Madrid.
You ought not to spend so much money.
You'd better not do that.
Should + subject + infinitive?
Should I tell him the truth?
1In most cases the contracted form of had better ('d better) is used unless the context is very formal.
2The negative form “ought not to” is much more common than “oughtn't to”.

To ask questions should is the most common option. However, we can use ought to in a formal context.


3. How are modals of advice used?

  • Should is used to express what we think would be the most correct or convenient thing to do in a given situation, that is, a subjective opinion.
    You should buy a new bike. This one is small.
    You shouldn't drink any more.
  • Ought to is used to express a more objective point of view. It is used in contexts related to laws, obligations, regulations, etc., and to express what would be morally right or wrong.
    He ought to behave a lot better.
    You ought not to plead guilty.
  • Had better is used to give advice when we believe that if we act otherwise, there will be negative consequences.
    You'd better buy the tickets now.
    I'd better go or my parents will tell me off.


Modals of advice are a type of modal verbs used mainly to give or ask for advice. These modal verbs are should, ought to and had better.
Modal Structure Examples
subjective opinions
+ Subject + should + infinitive He should study more.
- Subject + shouldn't + infinitive You shouldn't be angry today.
? Should + subject + infinitive Should I go to the cinema with my friends?
objective opinions
+ Subject + ought to + infinitive We ought to go out tonight.
- Subject + ought not to + infinitive You ought not to call him.
advice when you think there will be negative consequences
+ Subject + had / 'd better + infinitive We'd better find a flat soon.
- Subject + had / 'd better not + infinitive You'd better not touch that.