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Why do we use had not have in had better while the meaning is present or future, not past?

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  • Could you clarify by providing an example sentence? – FeliniusRex Apr 29 at 21:25
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Because this is a disguised conditional construction.

You had better do ... means It would be better if you did ...

Note that the main verb (that I've represented by do) is in the past form used for counterfactuals in the the expanded form. In the shorter form, had is in this same counterfactual form.

Compare Had you been ... as a literary form of If you had been ...

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  • Thanks! +1. That's an interesting explanation. I had never looked at it this way. – M.N Apr 30 at 11:31

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