Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

how to give advice in English using should supposed to and you better

What is the difference between “should,” “supposed to,” and “you better”?

These are all common phrases and words that native speakers use but when should you use each one?

You’ll find out in today’s episode.

Let’s look at this role play to start:

A: Michelle i heard there is some controversy now around the subway in NYC? What advice can you give me some advice me when it comes to having a successful trip on the subway?

B: Well you should make sure you always get up and give your seat up if there is a pregnant woman or an elderly person.


B You’re not supposed to go in those side doors, the emergency ones, unless you have a bike or stroller but people do when it’s crowded.


So in that conversation what was the difference between “should” and “not supposed to”?


  • Should- a common way to give advice
  • Supposed to– usually this is more about an outside rule that was established by someone else


Hey Lindsay and Michelle,

It’s me, Pascal again. I already sent you a question several weeks ago. And you really answered it in your show. I completely freaked out when I was realizing that you actually make an episode about that issue. So first of all, I just want to say thank you guys. You are amazing! I love your podcast 😉 I’m also writing to you because I came across another problem while using English. I’m getting very confused when I want to give somebody advice or make a recommendation. More precisely, I don’t know when and how to use the following expressions:

“should”, “be supposed to”, “ought to”, “you(‘d) better”

An example sentence would be:

You should be well prepared to pass the exam.

You supposed to be well prepared to pass the exam.

You ought to be well prepared to pass the exam.

You better be well prepared to pass the exam.

I hope you can help me with that. I’m looking forward to your answer. I wish you all the best.

-Pascal from Switzerland


Okay great questions!

What do these  words mean:

  • “You should”: This is the standard form of giving advice. Be careful how often you use it. This could sound annoying or condescending if you are giving unsolicited advice. We talked about this in Episode 725.


  • “You better”: This is strong. It’s used to give strong advice or a warning unless you are saying it jokingly.
    • It’s used a lot from parent to child: “You better finish your dinner if you want dessert.”
    • Can also be used conversationally:
      • A: When is your test?
      • B: It’s tomorrow morning
      • A: Oh my gosh you better get started! (should be said with the right tone of voice and enthusiasm or it could sound bossy or demanding.)


  • “You are supposed to”-This is used for an outside rule that is being imposed on you,  just like what we saw in the opening role play.
    • “You aren’t supposed to park on the left side of the street on Wednesdays.”
    • “As tenants we are supposed to mow our own lawn 3 times every summer.”


  • You ought to: This isn’t used much anymore. It may be a bit old fashioned.
    • Famous song by Allanis Morisette- “You Outta Know”


What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Let us know in the comments below.

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