Learn Grammar: Should / have to / (had) better

The grammar focus in Episode Four Blue of the Fortune drama series is modals and phrasal modals, with emphasis on ‘should’, ‘have to’ and ‘had better’.

The specific examples chosen for this lesson are associated with giving advice, talking about necessity/obligation, and opinions about the right course of action.

Using modals correctly is generally dependent on understanding the level of importance or need for action relating to a particular situation.

If we look at this in terms of giving advice or suggestion, the modal ‘should’ is an excellent way of showing what you think is the right course of action. For example, your friend has an important exam tomorrow and asks you what to do. In response, you say “You should study for three hours and then go to bed and sleep.” This is good advice based on your opinion.

In terms of obligation/necessity, the phrasal modal ‘have to’ is a great choice to express a stronger voice. For example, your friend calls you and says that they have been sick all night and have a high fever. This is a potentially dangerous situation. In response, you say “You have to go the hospital immediately!” This demonstrates to your friend the importance of taking action NOW.

The following structure(s) should be used with modals and phrasal modals:

Full modal verbs are followed by the base form of a verb (bare infinitive; no to), so there is no third person –s (He goes but He must go). Note that phrasal modals do conjugate for person (You have to go; He has to go) and tense (She had to go), with the second verb remaining in its base form.

For more information on ‘should’, ‘have to’ and ‘had better’ remember to follow our weekly grammar series on the Chasing Time English TV channel:

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