Grammar Usage

We’d better toe the line

Q: Sorry to be a pest, but I’m wondering about the usage in two of your posts. On Dec. 16, 2007, you wrote, “I better not overlook it,” and on Aug. 29, 2009, you wrote, “I better stop now.” Shouldn’t that be “I’d better” rather than “I better”?

A: Many language authorities consider “I better” acceptable in informal usage.

For example, R. W. Burchfield, editor of The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage, says, “In a wide range of informal circumstances (but never in formal contexts) the had or ’d can be dispensed with.”

And Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage says published examples “suggest that while it is an acceptable idiom, it is not found in very formal surroundings.”

Although we try to maintain an informal tone in these surroundings, we’ve decided to change those two instances of “I better” to “I’d better.”

This is a language blog after all, so we figured that we’d better toe the line!

And thanks for keeping us on our toes. 

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