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Last updated at 18:04 BST, Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Episode 194: Language Point

Alice, Khalid, Helen and the cat in the kitchen


Alice said 'It's time we were planning our holidays'. She meant 'We should' or 'We ought to plan our holidays'.

Here are some other expressions we can use when we want to talk about what other people should do or talk about what we want or what we'd prefer to do.

It's time / would prefer + infinitive

After it's time / would prefer we use the infinitive:

A: It's time to get the dinner ready.
B: I'd prefer to go to a restaurant for a change, wouldn't you?

A: It's time to clear out the spare room. Your parents are coming next month.
B: I'm too tired just now. I'd prefer to do it at the weekend.

A: Isn't it about time to pack up and go home?
B: I'd prefer to stay just a bit longer. The beach is so nice today, isn't it?

Would rather + infinitive without to

After would rather we use the infinitive without to:

A: It's time to cut the grass.
B: I'm at a great bit in my book. I'd rather do it later.

A: It's time to go now.
B: Can't we stay a bit longer? I'd rather get a later train.

A: Come on, it's time to do the dishes.
B: I'd rather leave them till the morning. Let's just go to bed and forget about them.

It's time / would rather + past tense

We can use a past tense after it's time or would rather but it has a present meaning:

A: Do you mind if I smoke?
B: I'd rather you didn't.

A: Can I go round to Bobby's after school tomorrow?
B: I'd rather you came straight home actually. Remember your grandma's coming to visit.

A: Where are we going this summer?
B: I don't know yet. I guess it's time we were planning our holidays.

Had better and should + infinitive without to

1. We can use had better or should to give advice. We use had better for specific situations but not for things in general.

Specific advice examples:
You've been late every day this week. You'd better not be late again or you'll get an official warning.
I'd better remember my mum's birthday this year. I forgot it last year and she didn't speak to me for a month!

General advice examples:
You look great in a suit and tie. You should wear smart clothes more often.
In Britain, if you arrive late for a film, they still let you in but you shouldn't be late if you're going to the theatre. They won't let you in if you arrive late.

2. Had better also means there might be a problem or some trouble if you don't follow the advice. Whereas should only means 'it's a good idea to do this'.

You'd better do what he says or he'll kill us.
You should go to the palace if you're in the city. You'll love it.


carbon footprint
amount of carbon dioxide we produce with any action or activity
person who wants to protect the environment from being damaged by human activities

travelling around the world a lot like rich fashionable people

in the offing
likely to happen soon
round the corner
nearly here

Episode 194 links

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  2. The Flatmates
  3. Episode 194: Language Point