Conversation · Modal verb · speaking

Giving Advice – Clears up about Could, Should and Would

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What do you say when you want to give someone a good idea?


By Jacqueline Schaalje

When you give advice, you can do this in many ways in English.

For instance I want to advise you to see a doctor, because I don’t like your cough.

First of all, you can literally say: “I advise you to see a doctor.”

Or: I suggest you see a doctor.

Or: I think it’s a good idea if you see a doctor.

However, these sentences sound a little formal. In practice, you will hear people say the following very common phrases:

You should see a doctor.

You’d better see a doctor. (‘d is short for had,)

Also very common ways are to use could and would:

You could see a doctor. This is weaker and/or softer than saying you should see a doctor. It’s possible to see a doctor. (As you might know, could is a more polite version of can. You use could to talk about something that is not real.)

I would see a doctor if I were you.

Or: If I were you I would see a doctor. (Different order of the sentence.)

Or: I think it would be a good idea if you saw a doctor.

Would is used here like in a similar way as could: you use would to say something that is unreal.

You can also use other modal verbs that indicate a possibility: You might see a doctor. This means: I think it’s a good idea if you see a doctor.

You can also use: might want to: You might want to see a doctor

Or might like: You might like to see a doctor.

Or I think it might: I think it might be a good idea if you saw a doctor.

And instead of might want to you can use may want to: You may want to see a doctor.

Note: You can’t use “You may see a doctor” here. This is not advice, but gives permission.

And may like doesn’t work for advice either. This indicates a possibility.

Some more advice:

You ought to see a doctor. Ought to is the same as should.

You need to see a doctor.

advice doct

Now, you can also use stronger expressions.

You must see a doctor. (It is really necessary for you to see a doctor.)

You have to see a doctor. Same as must.

I urge you to see a doctor.

If this is not enough, you can add “really.”

I really urge you to see a doctor.

Now please do the exercise where you’re going to learn a little bit how to understand the difference between gentle advice and strong advice.

The Imperative: Try this

And lastly, you can also give a strong advice to someone by using the Imperative mood. Grammatically, this is like giving a command (telling someone what to do). You need to be careful with this in English, as in many cases this will sound bossy, and it will have the opposite effect. However, these examples are okay and very common:

Take care of yourself.

Try to be more open-minded.

Try not to wait too long before you take action.

In our example with seeing the doctor, it doesn’t work with an imperative. Saying: “See a doctor” is bossy! And so is: Go see a doctor. Or whatever variation you can think of.

So in other words, you can use the command form with verbs that suggest.



Decide whether the sentence gives soft advice or strong advice, or not soft/not strong.

Do this quiz online here.

1 You might like to try my homemade cake. It’s very good.

2 You ought to take your rabbit to the vet. It’s clearly suffering.

3 You must try this shampoo. It makes your hair grow.

4 You shouldn’t go out all night when you have an important work meeting tomorrow morning.

5 You’d better stay in bed if you have a fever.

6 I urge you to take better care of your finances. This is the last time I’m lending you money.

7 I advise you to buy a house now, as you’re not getting any younger.

8 You have to take care of yourself better. This is the third time I see you with a cold.

9 You may want to look this word up in a dictionary.

10 You might want to check out the new World Trade Center whilst you’re in New York.

11 You could say hello to Wally if you pass his desk.

If you need more exercises, try to order some more. This is my advice!

2 thoughts on “Giving Advice – Clears up about Could, Should and Would

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