470 - ~たほうがいい

You should read this lesson very carefully, as it will prove immensely helpful when attempting to speak Japanese.

We're looking at...

JLPT N4: ~た方がいい (should; it would be best to)

First, a short dialogue:

おさけ を のむ とき は、 みず も いっしょに のんだほうがいい です よ。
When you’re drinking alcohol, you should drink water too.
Literally: “alcohol + を + drink + time + は, + water + も (=also) + together + drank + way + が + good + です + よ.”

Oh, really?
Literally: “is that so?”


You will see this kanji a lot in your Japanese studies. It has multiple meanings and uses, and a few of them are rather common.

Notably, when pronounced かた, the word 方 (かた) is a polite way of saying "person."

In this lesson, we're looking at 方 (ほう), which means something like "direction," "way," or "side."

There are possible translations of 方, most of which depend on the context in which it appears. In this lesson, though, whenever you see 方, just assume its reading is ほう and that it means "way," "side," etc.

Back to our example sentence. It included the phrase:

のんだほうがいい です
(you) should drink
Literally: “drank + way + が + good + です”

The translations of phrases with ~方がいい can vary, but for the most part it usually appears in English as "should." Maybe "it would be best to" is all right, too.

We use ~方がいい when recommending a course of action to another person.

In other words, it means "should" in phrases like "you should eat healthy" (← a suggestion), but it does NOT mean "should" in phrases like "my plane should land around 5 P.M." (← conjecture).

In casual phrases, we do not need to include です after いい. So a more casual version of the phrase above would be:

(you) should drink
Literally: “drank + way + が + good”

To form sentences with ~方がいい, we will need to conjugate verbs into either the plain past tense (=~た) or the negative plain present tense (=~ない). To make things easier, here are all of the verbs we'll be using in this lesson...

dictionary form・plain pastnegative plain present

to drink・drank・don't drink

to wash・washed・don't wash

to give・gave・don't give

to do ・did・don't do

to eat too much・ate too much・don't eat too much

to carry around・carried around・don't carry around

to scratch・scratched・don't scratch

When saying "should do," we'll use a plain past verb, and when saying "should NOT do," we'll use a negative plain present verb. Examples:

V た方がいい

飲んだ方がいいのんだほうがいい // should drink
洗った方がいいあらったほうがいい // should wash
あげた方がいいあげたほうがいい // should give

V ない方がいい

しない方がいいしないほうがいい // shouldn't do
食べ過ぎない方がいいたべすぎないほうがいい // shouldn't eat too much
持ち歩かない方がいいもちあるかないほうがいい // shouldn't carry around
かかない方がいいかかないほうがいい // shouldn't scratch

So what do you think? Are you ready for a slew of examples?

I hope so...

To ease into things, here is our first example once more:

おさけ を のむ とき は、 みず も いっしょに のんだほうがいい です よ。
When you’re drinking alcohol, you should drink water too.
Literally: “alcohol + を + drink + time + は, + water + も (=also) + together + drank + way + が + good + です + よ.”

Oh, really?
Literally: “is that so?”

Maybe this is a bit obvious, but suggesting things to "social superiors" (e.g. bosses, teachers, etc.) using ~方がいい is not very common.

Now let's look at a sentence with "should NOT do:"

Younger Sister:
おねえちゃん、 むりな ダイエット は しないほうがいい よ。
You shouldn’t try to go on such an extreme diet.
Literally: “older sister, + unreasonable / impossible + diet + は + don’t do + way + が + good + よ.”
Note: ダイエット actually refers to both diet and exercise (e.g. anything that makes you lose weight).

Older Sister:
はいはい。 わかってます よ。
Yeah, yeah. I heard you.
Literally: “yeah, yeah. + am understanding + よ.”
Note: When politely acknowledging instructions, one can use the past tense of わかる, "to understand," which is わかりました. But when you are a bit annoyed by instructions and want to say "I already know that (so don't tell me what to do)," you can use the present progressive わかってる or わかってます. The nuance here is that the speaker is going to ignore her younger sister's advice.

By the way, be careful saying はい twice, as it can sound quite rude depending on your intonation and the situation in which you use it. We looked at this in the Toby in Tokyo course. The simplest advice: Never say はい twice in succession in formal speech.

Parents commonly scold their children by saying:

はい は いっかい!
Only say hai once!
Literally: "yes + は + one time."

シーツ は いっしゅうかん に いっかい は あらったほうがいい です よ。
You should wash your sheets at least once a week.
Literally: “sheets + は + one week period + に + one time + は
+ washed + way + が + good + です + よ.”


Or maybe Person B should say something like this:

Literally: “understood.”

はつデート なら、 おごって あげたほうがいい です よ。
You should pay [treat her (him)] if it’s your first date.
Literally: “first date + if (it is the case that), + treat (to a meal) (and) + gave + way + が + good + です + よ.”

わかりました。 そう します。
OK. I will.
Literally: “understood. + that (way / thing) + do.”

Long-time readers of these lessons with excellent memory may recall that we saw a casual way to offer to treat someone using the verb おごる back in [NDL #281] - Who cares!

ドル は げんち で りょうがえ する と たかい から、 にほん で りょうがえ して おいたほうがいい よ。
It’ll be expensive to exchange for dollars there, so you should get them ahead of time in Japan.
Literally: “dollar + は + the (actual) place + で + money exchange + do + と + expensive + because (=から), + Japan + で + money exchange + do (and) + did (as preparation) + way + が + good + よ.”

そうなんだ。 ありがとう。
I see. Thank you.
Literally: “I see. + thanks.”

けんこう に いい と いわれている もの でも、 あまり たべすぎないほうがいい です よ。
Even if a food is said to be healthy, you shouldn’t eat too much of it.
Literally: “health + に + good + と + is being said + thing + even (=でも), + not too much + don’t eat too much + way + が + good + です + よ.”

そうですね。 きをつけます。
You’re right. I’ll be careful.
Literally: “that’s right. + be careful.”

Although ~方がいい is technically used for suggestions, sometimes the suggestion is strong enough that it almost sounds like a command, as in this dialogue:

あぶない から、 たがく の げんきん は もちあるかないほうがいい です よ。
You shouldn’t walk around carrying so much cash. It’s dangerous.
Literally: “dangerous + because (=から), + large amount of money + の + cash + は + don’t carry around + way + が + good + です + よ.”

Literally: “understood”

むしさされ は いくら かゆくても、 かかないほうがいいよ。
No matter how itchy they are, you shouldn’t scratch bug bites.
Literally: “bug bite + は + how much + even if itchy, + don’t scratch + way + が + good + よ.”

うるさい なあ。 わかってる よ。
I know. Stop bugging me about it.
Literally: “noisy / annoying + なあ. + am understanding + よ.”
Note: うるさいなあ means something like "stop bugging me" or "get off my back." By itself, just saying うるさい! means something like "Shut up!" but adding the なあ gives the nuance that you're saying this to yourself, which makes it a bit softer (though still not a very nice thing to say).

I highly recommend practicing ~方がいい sentences using a variety of verbs. There will be many chances to use this grammar out in the wild. ^^

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