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Why did the writer use "had"? Why didn't he use "have?

Well, thank you for showing me a great dance. I had better go now.

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2 Answers 2

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The construction had better + the infinitive without “to” is used to refer to the present or the future, talking about actions we think people should do or which are desirable in a specific situation.

Saying "I had better (do something)", as was noted in the previous answer, the speaker seems to be urging or persuading him/herself to take some action.

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  • Thank you, what kind of form is this? is it semi-modal?
    – Shannak
    Feb 17, 2017 at 12:10
  • I'm not sure it's a semi-modal like "dare", "used to", but it very much looks like it.
    – Victor B.
    Feb 17, 2017 at 12:16
  • @Shannak - At the same time, I didn't find it in the list of Semi-Modal Auxiliary Verbs here.
    – Victor B.
    Feb 17, 2017 at 12:41
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This is a kind of exhortation to oneself, which is a second-cousin to the irrealis form; it is the not-yet-realized, the not-yet-real, and it is marked by a backshift of tense:

I had better go now.

Compare Middle English I had lever and Early Modern I had rather.

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