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Teachers,

According to the grammar book I have, 'had better' is an ok expression but not 'should better'. It says that the latter ought to be just 'should' instead of 'should better.' But I wonder if this is true, because I often hear people (native English speaking people) use them both. So if both of them are usable, please explain the difference by showing actual examples.

Any help would be appreciated

Thank you.
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Could you give examples of some of the "should better" uses you have in mind?
Also, many things are said in grammar books which aren't actually synonymous with the real life and usage.
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Hi Anon

What your grammar book says is a good guideline. Standard usage is to use the bare infinitive after "had better" and also after "should":

- had better do
- should do

What you say you're hearing native speakers use could reflect one or more of the following:

1. You are misunderstanding what is being said.
2. You have heard the words correctly, but the native speaker is using slang or a local dialect.
3. You are not parsing the sentence correctly. In other words, you are not grouping the words in the sentence correctly, and/or you are misinterpetting the meaning of the word "better".

Here are some examples of what I mean in #3.

3a. Hansen should better his world record and win a second gold metal.

In sentence (3a), the word "better" is a bare infinitive. The verb "to better" means surpass, exceed, improve. The word "should" indicates that the speaker thinks an improvement is very likely. Sentence (3a) means this:
- It is my expectation that Hansen will be able to improve his world record and win a second gold metal.

3b. We hope to return in better days, should better days ever come.

In sentence (3b), the word "better" is an adjective modifying the noun "days". "Better days" basically means "an improved or more favorable situation". The word "should" is used instead of "if". Sentence (3b) can be reworded this way:
- If better days ever come, we hope to return.

3c. Congress should better address immigration issues.

In sentence (3c), the word "better" is an adverb and it modifies the verb "address". The word "better" means "in a better way" or "in a more effective way". You can reword the sentence this way:
- Congress should address immigration issues more effectively.
Hi, Avangi

How about in these sentences.

I'm sure they are both used commonly.

I had better go to bed.

I should better go to bed.
Thank you for your explanation.
If I'm not mistaken, what you are saying about 'should better' sounds more like 'should improve something', or 'should make something better than what it is now' ...., which I think simply equals to grammar book's 'should.' 

Then how I interpret the usage of should better in the following sentences.

"I should better go now."

"I should better do something."

"I should better get an ipod.

I think these are quite commonly used.

Thank you.
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Hi, Anon,

This is a good example of a usage where only "had" is correct. The "should" version might be found in coloquial or regional usage, but I doubt any English teacher would tolerate it in school.

The three uses which Yankee describes are special, and 100% correct; and you should be able to observe how they differ from the "incorrect" use of should.
Anonymous I'm sure they are both used commonly.

I had better go to bed.
I should better go to bed.I can't imagine any native speaker saying "I should better go to bed". That only sounds like a non-native speaker error to me. What kind of native speakers have you been listening to, Anon? I assume they're not British or American. If you do a search in the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) and the British National Corpus (BNC) for "should better go", you will get exactly ZERO results. In other words, out of the hundreds of millions of words in the corpora, there is not one single example of the words "should better go" actually being used that way. The complete lack of any usage examples tends to suggest that "should better go" has never been used by a native speaker of BE or AmE.

"I had better go to bed" is grammatically fine. In everyday speech, that would normally be contracted to "I'd better go to bed". Many people don't even bother saying the 'd, so they end up saying "I better go to bed".

Have you perhaps been misinterpretting the contraction "I'd" as meaning "I should"?

Hi, Yankee, I've been dragging my feet a little bit on this, because I seem to recall some old New Hampshire folks saying things like "I think it's time you should be getting on home," and "I think you should best be getting your tail on out of here!"
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