verb form with had better

This sentence is from an direct to indirect narration conversion exercise. As you can see the exercise has marked C as correct answer but I suspect it to be wrong as I never came across any sentence with structure had better + past form of verb, I googled and found sentences using only had better+ verb form 1 so I think correct answer should be B, Am I correct or in indirect narration it's fine to use past form of verb ?

  • In my experience, I've never ever heard anyone say we had better did something. I think what the book says is simply wrong. Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 12:27

1 Answer 1


had better + {past participle} is rare in contemporary English, certainly American English, and speakers will avoid it, if they are even aware of it as an option, as few are:

She said to Mr Weston that it would be better if they moved on. contemporary

By contrast, here's something from a work printed in London in 1845 (emphasis mine):

The admiring pupil is perhaps not select in his gatherings and recollections; he embalms much that had better gone to decay; he accumulates rubbish as well as rubies; be possibly mistakes, or mistates, the words or intentions of the speaker; and he injures the fair fame of the object of his veneration, by recording much that had better been forgotten...

  • Jane Austen, Mansfield Park: You had better have gone out. Suits me much better with that highlighted auxiliary verb included. Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 13:27
  • Yes, but the shade of meaning is different, I think. At the time, it would have been better to leave at that point (had better gone). At the time, it would have been better to have left already (had better have gone).
    – TimR
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 13:58
  • I'm not completely convinced about that. I can see a difference in You'd better have tidied your room before I get back (where unquestionably have is "required"), and your cited 1845 example (where I think have is effectively "optional", even though I personally would prefer to include it). Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 14:40

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