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た ほうがいい

Oni's picture
When giving advice this is useful.  

CONSTRUCTION: ta form (#3) + ほう が いい hou ga ii

休んだ ほう が いい
yasunda hou ga ii.
It would be better to rest.

聞いた ほう が いい
kiita hou ga ii.
It would be better to ask (someone).

NOTE: The ta form is the same as the past tense. (But obviously it is not past here)

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LeeKey's picture


If i get it right, could i say: "You shouldn't eat this" or "It's not good to eat this meal" like 「その食べ物は食べたほうがいいじゃないです。」(そのたべものはたべたほうがいいじゃないです。)

reply to LeeKey's question

You have the right idea as far as the grammar for that sentence is concerned (verb in TA form + HOU GA + negative form of "good"), but let me point out some other grammatical errors in your sentence SONO TABEMONO WA TABETA HOU GA II JA NAI DESU:

1) You want to use the particle WO instead of WA with SONO TABEMONO because the act of eating is being performed on TABEMONO; SONO TABEMONO WO TABETA means "ate that food", and SONO TABEMONO WA TABETA means "that food ate".
2) The negative form of II DESU is not II JA NAI DESU; we can't use II for past or negative tense, so we have to use YOI instead, and because YOI is an I-adjective, the negative form is YOKUNAI DESU (not YOI JA NAI DESU)

So the correct way to say "It's not good to eat that food" is その食べ物を食べた方が良くないです (そのたべものをたべたほうがよくないです)(SONO TABEMONO WO TABETA HOU GA YOKUNAI DESU).

I hope that helps!

Don't be literal.

What you say is... kind of true, but not very useful. In this case, it's the た form is not really 'past tense' - tense is generally determined by the last verb in a sentence.

In the second place, while the most basic and literal meaning of 方(ほう)is 'direction', it also has a meaning of 'method'. (It's sometimes translated 'way' in order to preserve that ambiguity). In this expression, a meaning like 'method' or 'manner' is the more important one.

It -is- useful to pay attention the last bit you noticed, the fact that this が is the subject marking particle and this いい is the adjective 'good'. (You could in fact change it to other adjectives, to say that taking a certain action would be wise or dangerous or whatever.)

You could say 休んだほうがいい literally means 'the resting way is good' but that's not very natural, and ほう here is only acting as a grammatical marker. Translating it as a word in it's own right is heavy-handed.

'It would be better to ___' is a popular translation because it avoids the problem of context changing the meaning around, but the vast majority of the time it's a mild suggestion along the lines of 'I think you should ___' but
less forceful, perhaps most naturally translated as 'Why don't you ___?'

(Of course, depending on context, 'I think' and 'you' may not be accurate.)

Anyway, the take-away is - you're better off to understand set grammar patterns as set grammar patterns and not try to work out the exact words. It would be more effective to think of (v-past)ほうがいい as a complex conjugation that creates a suggestion than to try to remember all the different words and particles and put them together when someone's talking at full speed.


What would the literal translation of たほうがいい be? "た" is pass tense, and "ほう" means direction, and "がいい" identifies what is good. So たほうがいい would mean "In the direction of [insert past tense verb] would be good." I hope I got that right. Correct me if I'm wrong.

HOU means "alternative"

HOU can mean "direction", but it can also mean "alternative", such as in this grammar. So "[past tense verb] HOU GA II DESU" is saying "[past tense verb] is a good alternative (compared to all the other possible alternatives)."

When you're using a positive verb, it's always in past tense (TA-form), so you can think of it like saying "If you did [verb], it would be a good alternative (compared to all the other possible alternatives)." if that helps you gain a better grasp on using it.

Varien Nexus's picture


I'm not sure how you got "direction" from "~た” here, literally the only thing ~た does in this conjugation is change the verb from base-3 (dictionary form), to past tense.(which isn't actually what it means here, when the informal past tense (~た form) is matched with ~ほうがいい, it translates to "_____would be good", as the above post explains)

To translate what you're wanting to, this might get the job done:
そちらに行ったほうがいい。 : It might be good to go in that direction. (行く(いく) - to go, changes to 行った(いった) in the informal past tense)

To anyone else who wants to know a bit more about this form, you can also change the "~た" to "~ない"(informal present negative) to recommend a course of action. It is a tad bit more serious, so it would translate to something like "You had better...."
Some examples:
この水を飲んだほうがいい。 : It would be best for you to drink this water...
遅い(おそい)来ない(こない - informal present negative form of くる)ほうがいいです。 : It is best not to come(arrive) late.

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