HOU GA II (ほうがいい)

The structure HOU GA II (ほうがいい) is used to make a suggestion or to give advice to someone. It’s also used to highlight a personal choice or method among several possibilities. ほうがいい is very often translated as:

  • I / You / He had better do this
  • I / You / He should do this
  • It would be best to do this
  • I’d prefer this

The verb takes the plain form of the past tense (-TA, -た). Then simply add ほう (method, manner, direction), the particle が, and finally the adjective いい (good, well).

Boku wa kono hon o yonda hou ga ii.
I had better read this book. / I should read this book.

Literally: The direction of reading this book is good.

Depending on the context, this structure can express a suggestion or a piece of advice. After いい, it’s also possible to add the copula です to give a more polite tone to the statement.

Kimi wa nihon ni itta hou ga ii.
You had better go to Japan. / You should go to Japan.

Literally: As far as you are concerned, the manner/direction of going to Japan is good.

The Japanese often avoid being too direct and imposing their opinions. So it’s recommended to add TO OMOU (と思う) at the end of the sentence (which means “I think that…”) to make it sound softer and less direct. However, among friends or family members, it’s not necessary.

Kimi wa nihon ni itta hou ga ii to omou yo.
I think that you should go to Japan.

Fune de nihon ni itta hou ga ii yo!
It would be best to go to Japan by boat!

Because she must be afraid of planes, for example

By using the negative verbal form (-ない, -NAI) instead of the past plain form with –た, we suggest or advise NOT to do something.

Kimi wa kono resutoran ni ikanai hou ga ii to omou.
I think that you had better not go to this restaurant. / Perhaps you should not go to this restaurant. 

Literally: The manner/direction of not going in this restaurant is good.

ほう can also be placed after a noun rather than after an action. That way, we can express our preference for one thing rather than another. In that case, the particle の should be added between the noun and ほう.

Sakana no hou ga ii desu.
I would prefer some fish.

Literally: The direction/manner of fish is good (compared to other things).

As usual in Japanese, the subject may be omitted, hence the importance of understanding the context.

To finish, replace いい (good) with its past form (was good) YOKATTA (良かった) in order to express that a method/direction/choice would have been good, that if we had done something else, it would have been better.

Nihon ni itta hou ga yokatta desu.
You would have done better by going to Japan. / You should have gone to Japan.

Literally: The manner/direction of going to Japan was good.

Note that by adding the particle のに at the end emphasizes the feeling of regret.

Furansu ni ita hou ga yokatta noni.
You would have done better by staying in France.

Further information

HOU GA YOI can also be used instead of HOU GA II. That structure is just a little more formal.

Besides, ほうがいい can also be placed after an adjective.

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  Posted on Jul 5, 2013, 11:52:17 AM #1


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