1. The bear is dangerous, you had better not come near it.
  2. The bear is dangerous, you had better not to come near it.

1 Answer 1


Aside from the oddity of using diacritical marks in English, the first sentence is grammatical whereas the second is not.

"Had better not" is an idiomatic phrase that acts like a "modal verb" synonymous with "ought not." The complement of a modal verb is a bare infinitive. Therefor "to come" is wrong grammatically whereas "come" is correct grammatically. Idiomatically, however, "go" is more natural than "come" because it implies intentionality.

I want to thank all the commenters for making me see that my original explanation for why the second sentence was wrong was just plain silly.

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    Re English does not insert a "to" in front of the verb in a sentence. That wouldn't be the case with the alternative phrasing It's better not to go near it. Jan 5, 2020 at 17:11
  • @FF But in your alternative sentence the verb is "is" and "come" is an infinitive. I actually thought about distinguishing such cases in my answer, but decided that doing so would confuse rather than clarify things. We would not say "It to is better not to come." Jan 5, 2020 at 17:15
  • Yeah, I know my example is slightly different. But OP's come (switched to more idiomatic go in my version) is still an infinitive. It's just that we use unmarked infinitives (without to) after certain "main" verbs, as in You mustn't / shouldn't / had better not... But we don't do that with other verbs (You don't need to do that, I have to do it, He wants to do it). Jan 5, 2020 at 17:26
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    @FF If you want to define "better not" as a modal verb, then I agree with your analysis. Otherwise, the only verb present is "come." It is silly to argue about definitions. If we define "better not" as a modal verb, then "come" is an infinitive required to be bare. If we do not define "better not" as a modal verb, then "come" is the required verb in the sentence and required not to be preceded by "to." We get to the same place by analyzing from different definitions. I prefer not to talk about modals if possible because learners find them difficult. Jan 5, 2020 at 17:55
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    Only someone who was themselves near the bear would say "don't come near the bear"; everyone else would say "don't go near the bear". Jan 5, 2020 at 20:42

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