Should I use "have to", "had better", or "should" to formulate recommendations to other people? I don't know the exact difference between them.

For example, I'd like to write the following answer on Chinese Stack Exchange:

«果 means "fruit" or "result". When the meaning is "fruit", it equals to 水果. When the meaning is "result", it equals to 結果. Both 水果 and 結果 can be abbreviated to 果. You (have to / had better / should) look at the context.»

  • Can you give us more context? It's hard to tell exactly what you're asking for without more context. Maybe you could write us some sentences in which you use the phrases? – stangdon Jul 25 '16 at 14:18
  • 果 means fruit or result. When the meaning is fruit, it equals to 水果. When the meaning is result, it equals to 結果. Both 水果 and 結果 can be abbreviated to 果. You had better look at the context. – Jisa Jul 25 '16 at 14:21
  • It's an answer I posted. – Jisa Jul 25 '16 at 14:21
  • Short answer: "have to" is the correct usage in your sentence. However, I'd rewrite as follows « can mean "fruit" or "result". If its meaning is "fruit", then it's shown as 水果. If its meaning is "result", then it's shown as 結果. However both 水果 and 結果 can be abbreviated as . Therefore you must look at the context to determine what the exact meaning is.» – gattsbr Jul 25 '16 at 16:23

have to means to need to, or to be forced to, or must. There is no way that you can escape doing this thing.

I have to renew my visa next week.
I have to get a birthday present for my wife.
I have to work late tonight.

should is used to say or ask what is the correct or best thing to do. This is the best way of politely offering advice.

You should try the mango ice cream, it's delicious!
You should always cover your mouth before you sneeze.
You should look at the context.

you had better is what parents say to children: it implies that you think the person doesn't want to do it, and hints that something bad will happen if they don't do it.

You had better get up now, or you will be late for school!
You had better clean this mess up, or you won't get any ice cream.
You had better pay attention, or you will fail the exam!

In the example that you quoted in your comments, it is essential to look at the context in order to tell the difference between fruit and result, so

You have to/need to/must look at the context.

  • I would just use "need to". It is a requirement to get what you need, but nobody is forcing you. Politeness should not be a big problem, since it seems that you are the instructor. – user3169 Jul 25 '16 at 20:00

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