My ultimate guide to giving advice, all the possible phrases you need

Modal verbs are very difficult to get right. The best way to learn modal verbs is to look at which modal verbs need to be used for which topic.  This week we will look at giving advice.  Giving advice is actually quite simple in English, it is possible to simply use should for everything.  However, as this is advanced English I have made a list of many possible expressions you can use to give advice.  Some of them will be completely new, but they are all very useful.

Might as well..

I like this phrase because it is very common and very simple to use.  The phrase simply means that it would be better to do something than not to do it.

‘I know the weather is not so good, but we might as well take a walk around the city anyway because we’re only here for one day’.

As you can see in the example, you can simply insert it between the subject and the verb.  With the same meaning, might as well can be used to make unenthusiastic suggestions: 

‘It’s raining outside, we might as well stay indoors this afternoon’

‘If profits keep falling, you might as well recall the product’

Could do with.. 

This phrase is another way to say that somebody should do something, either now or in the future.  It is a little bit less strong than should:

‘Your shoes look really dirty, you could do with washing them’

‘We could do with changing background colour on the company website’

Could have done with (Past form)

You can also use this phrase to talk about something you needed in the past, but now it’s too late.  For this we use the form could have done with’

‘We were very busy in the restaurant last night, we could have done with an extra person’

‘My feet are really hurting after the hiking trip, I could have done with some better shoes’

Should / Ought to..

When giving advice, should and ought to mean pretty much the same thing.  Should is more common. It is actually easier just to use should, because should can be used for all forms of advice.  Ought to cannot be used in questions, and cannot be used if you are giving advice from a position of authority.  So it is better to always use should, but to recognise that ought to exists and means the same thing.

‘You should consider a change of career.’

‘I think we should delegate the tasks equally among the members of the team.’

Should have/ ought to have (Talking about the past)

To talk about the past, you use should have + past participle:

‘We should have planned the project better before we started’

If  were you, I would…

This is a great phrase, meaning pretty much exactly the same thing as should.  This is best used when giving advice to friends:

‘If I were you I would apply for the job, I think you have a good chance of getting it!’

‘If I were you I would start thinking about a career change’

Had better..

This phrase generally means the same as should, but it suggests that there is a lot more urgency to do something.

It can only be used to talk about the present  or future time, which is confusing for many learners, because it uses had, which of course is a past tense form.  The reason for this is just from the origins of the phrase, not something you really need to know about.  All you need to know is that it can only be used to talk about the present or future:

‘If we want to catch the 11am bus we had better run, otherwise we will miss it!’ (here there is some urgency to leave so that you will be in time to catch the train)

‘If we want to meet the deadline, we had better work a bit more quickly’

Had better can also be used to make threats:

‘You had better hand in your essay by tomorrow, otherwise you will be in trouble!’ 

If you would like to have any of these phrases explained further, or if you would like to see some more examples, feel free to comment below or email me at [email protected], or message me on Skype at live:fluencyspace!  Click here to check out more useful business phrases.


 David Cox

 Fluency Space

 Make the world your fluency space. Business English for career and life success

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