by Liz Walter
We all have times when we want to give advice to someone or to make a suggestion about something they could do to solve a problem. However, it’s not always easy to do that without giving offence, so this post looks at a range of language you could use in this situation.
You ought to eat more vegetables.
You shouldn’t be so rude to your parents.
Note that although we commonly use the negative form shouldn’t, it’s very rare and formal to use the negative form of ought to.
We also use need to in the same way:
You need to get some sleep.
Words like should, ought to and need to are very definite. They show that you are very sure of your advice. The problem with that is that they can be annoying to the person you are talking to because they can make you sound rather bossy. You could soften your advice by adding a word like perhaps or maybe at the beginning:
Maybe you should call her.
You could also use the modal verb could, which makes the sentence sound more like a suggestion rather than a piece of strict advice. Again, you could add a word like perhaps to make it even less bossy:
Perhaps you could get a part-time job.
Another common way of giving advice is to start a sentence with If I were you, I’d … :
If I were you, I’d insist on a pay rise.
Just in case you’re wondering, the reason we say ‘I were’ here, rather than the usual ‘I was’ is because it’s a subjunctive – but you don’t need to worry about that, just learn the phrase!
Another phrase worth learning for advice is you’d better (not):
You’d better take a torch.
However, it’s important to note that – depending on context and the tone of voice – this phrase can sound quite threatening:
You’d better not try to trick me!
Of course, there are lots of other possible ways of giving advice. Here is a selection:
It might be an idea / a good idea to reserve a seat.
Have you thought about/tried/considered changing to a different course?
Why don’t you / Why not leave it until another day?
I’d suggest / recommend cooking it in the oven.
I’d advise you / My advice is to leave the city immediately. (formal)
Do feel free to contribute any other useful phrases for advice in the comments below!
For more general information about modal verbs, see my post from last November.