Using different words and forms changes how strongly you are telling someone to do something

1. ‘Should’ or ‘ought to’ are for general advice

*Note a slight difference in meaning:
should = it is a good idea to…
ought to = it isn’t good if you don’t…(can seem a little stronger, although both can generally be used)

ShouldOught to
It’s a beautiful day; we should have picnic.You ought to go.
You should call her.They ought to pay more attention.

2. ‘Shouldn’t’ is far more common than ‘ought not to’

You shouldn’t go.
You shouldn’t waste your money on that movie: it’s awful.
They shouldn’t get married.Paul shouldn’t talk so much during meetings.

3. ‘Could’ is used to suggest an idea (weaker than advising)

“What shall we do?”
“We could go to the park.”
You should go to the party. Or you could come out with us if you like.
I’m not sure what job I can get, although Yun said I could try applying for the police.“I think you could try being nicer to your father.”

4. ‘Might want to’ is used to strongly suggest to someone what they should do

Although ‘might want to’ reads like a suggestion, it is often spoken in a way that sounds like ‘if you don’t, you’re a fool’.

You might want to brush your hair before you go out.You might want to put on some pants before my parents get here.
He said she might want to give Mr Peters a call – he is always looking to hire people.You were pretty rude to her last night. I think you might want to apologise.

5. ‘Had better’ is very strong advice. It is often used like a warning

You had better put on your good shoes; it’s an important occasion.She had better be ready when I get there; I’m not waiting for her.
“You kissed her sister? You had better apologize.”You had better not come here again. If you do, I’ll kill you.

6. Exercises

Use the different modals of advice to:
(i) tell a person getting married is a really bad idea
(ii) suggest that giving a present is a good idea
(iii) tell a person that throw something away, otherwise you will get very angry.