My English teacher was explaining simple past and present perefect tenses and he threw the following sentence

I'd better ring him

I thought he meant "I would", but he said it is I had. I don't understand how it makes sense, had must go with the third form of the verb rang. It is similar to saying

I had better left the door open yesterday
I had better eaten the food in the morning -- I wouldn't be hungary now.

It sounds like a subjunctive mood situation. My teacher told me, it makes sense to him and gramatically it is a simple past tense not a present perfect tense. He is a native kiwi/Aussie English speaker.

  • 2
    Possible duplicate of I'd better get a quart. It's a fixed construction which is not susceptible to ordinary syntactic analysis. Nov 8 '18 at 1:11
  • I think it's not a duplicate of I'd better get a quart, because that post asks a completely different question (namely, is the sentence "I’d be better to get a quart." correct?). Nov 8 '18 at 1:17
  • Note that the use of "ring" to mean "contact by telephone" is British English. Americans would say "I'd better call him".
    – Andrew
    Nov 8 '18 at 6:32

The phrase "had better" is a set phrase, which means the same thing as "should". It needs to be followed by a bare infinitive (just like the word "should" does).

So, this sentence is correct:

I had better ring him. (= I should ring him.)

These sentences are not correct:

*I had better left the door open yesterday. (= *I should left the door open yesterday.)

*I had better eaten the food in the morning. (= *I should eaten the food in the morning.)

  • 1
    But we could say, "I had better leave the door open today – the dog might need to go outside," or, "I had better eat food this morning – we are going for a long walk later."
    – J.R.
    Nov 8 '18 at 1:25
  • I was told that I had better is used for past semtences like I had better ring him yesterday, so that he would know I am not coming today. Your version sounds like more of a present version I had better ring him now, so that he can prepare food before I reach home.
    – user31782
    Nov 23 '18 at 3:47
  • @user31782 I think that "I had better" is usually not used in the past tense like that. Instead of saying "I had better ring him yesterday", it would be better to say "I should have rung him yesterday". However, the sentence "I had better ring him now" sounds completely fine. Nov 23 '18 at 13:00

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