I hear that "You had better--" sometimes connotes a warning or (in some cases) a threat,
therefore Non-native speakers should be careful
about using this phrase to avoid any misundersdanding.

On the other hand, this phrase can very often
be heard in everyday life like the examples below.

1.You look pale. You had better go see a doctor.
2.You'd better come back soon. The party has already begun.
3.Hey. you'd better watch this TV show. It's
so hilarious.

So, could you tell me in what cases "had better"
could be taken as a warning or threat, and what
cases it is not?
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Original Post
"Had better" can be taken, appropriately, as a warning when a person of authority uses it with an equal or underling:

"¢ General: Private, you'd better clean this barracks up in five minutes!
Soldier: Yes, sir!

"¢ Teacher: Tommy, you'd better do your homework or you'll get a bad grade in this class.
Tommy: Yes, ma'am.

"¢ Father: Mindy, you'd better get home before twelve tonight or you'll be grounded for a month.
Daughter: OK, Dad.

"Had better" can also be taken as an advisory or a friendly warning, even to oneself:

"¢ Doctor: You'd better go on a diet. It's not healthy to be overweight.
Patient: OK. What should I do?

"¢ Weather
Forecaster: OK, viewers, you'd better stock up on flashlights and batteries. This storm will probably knock out the power.

"¢ Person: Hmm. I'd better not say anything to him. I don't want to hurt his feelings.

"Had better" is used with friends, family, colleagues in a cordial matter when one wants to give advice or indicate what is better for the listener:

"¢ Mary: Sally, you'd better call Jack. He's called you five times already.

"¢ John: You'd better be more careful, Harry, or they'll fire you.

"¢ Husband: You'd better stay home today, dear. You really aren't well. Call in sick.


A problem occurs when a person who is not in authority uses it with the person who has more authority:

"¢ Soldier: Sergeant, you'd better give me a weekend pass.
(Correction: Sergeant, Corporal Smith here, applying for a weekend pass.)

"¢ Student: Teacher, you'd better let class out early today!
(Correction: Teacher, could you please let class out early today?)

"¢ Son: Dad, you'd better give me the car tonight.
(Correction: Dad, could I please take the car tonight?)

"Had better" is close in meaning to "should." It is a little stronger, and does carry the connotation that if one doesn't do something, there will be a bad consequence.

It's true that one should be careful about using "had better" to avoid misunderstanding, as in the last group of sentences above. When in doubt, choose another construction.

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