Using different words and forms changes how strongly you are telling someone to do something

‘Should’ or ‘ought to’ are for general advice

Note a slight difference in meaning:
should = it is a good idea to…
ought to = it isn’t good if you don’t…(can seem a little stronger, although both can generally be used)

– examples

It’s a beautiful day; we should have picnic.
You should call her.

You ought to go.
They ought to pay more attention

‘Shouldn’t’ is far more common than ‘ought not to’

– examples

You shouldn’t go.
They shouldn’t get married.
You shouldn’t waste your money on that movie: it’s awful.

‘Could’ is used to suggest an idea (weaker than advising)

– examples

“What shall we do?”
“We could go to the park.”

You should go to the party. Or you could come out with us if you like.

‘Might want to’ is used to strongly suggest to someone what they should do

(note: although it reads like a suggestion, it is often spoken in a way that sounds like ‘if you don’t, you’re a fool’)

– examples:

You might want to brush your hair before you go out (it’s a mess)
You might want to put on some pants before my parents get here.
You were pretty rude to her last night. I think you might want to apologise.

‘Had better’ is very strong advice. It is often used like a warning

– examples

You had better put on your good shoes; it’s an important occasion.
“You kissed her sister? You had better apologize.”
She had better be ready when I get there; I’m not waiting for her.
You had better not come here again. If you do, I’ll kill you.

Exercises

Use the different modals of advice to:
(i) tell a person getting married is a really bad idea
(ii) suggest that giving a present is a good idea
(iii) tell a person that throw something away, otherwise you will get very angry.