What is 方がいい (Hou Ga Ii) in Japanese?

The expression “〜方がいい (hou ga ii)” is used when giving advice or suggestions to someone. It translates to “It’s better to do ~” or “You should do ~” in English.

Another expression, “〜(する)べきだ (suru beki da),” also means “You should do ~.” However, it is direct and can sound condescending. 方がいい is a much softer and nicer way to suggest something to someone.  

方 (hou) means “way” or “direction,” so this expression suggests that one specific choice is simply the better “way.”

In Japan, giving advice or suggestions on personal matters to someone in a higher position, such as your boss, is usually considered rude or even insulting (e.g., “You should help your wife out more.” However, giving advice or your opinion on work-related matters is okay (e.g., “I think we should focus on our younger audience.”)   

That being said, in general, the 方がいい pattern is best used with people you are close to, like your friends or family.  


(Benkyō shita hou ga ii.)
You should study.

If you want to be polite, you can add “です (desu)” at the end of the sentence and say:

(Benkyō shita hou ga ii desu.)
It would be better to study.

Plain Past Tense Verb + 方がいい (Hou Ga Ii): It’s Better to ~ / You Should ~

Plain Past Tense Verb (~た) Form + 方がいい (hou ga ii) = It’s better if you ~. / You should ~.  

方がいい (hou ga ii) represents a strong suggestion (you should do) rather than a command (you better/must do).

The subject is generally omitted when it is in the first person and is already known from context (examples #1-3). The subject is included in a sentence if it is in the third person (example #4).


1. 健史: 遊びに行こうよ。
Takeshi: (Asobi ni ikō yo.)
Takeshi: Let’s go out (and have some fun).

    智也: 明日はテストがあるから、家で勉強した方がいいよ。
Tomoya: (Ashita wa tesuto ga aru kara ie de benkyō shita hou ga ii yo.)
Tomoya: Tomorrow, we have a test, so we should study at home.

2. 今日は午後から雨になるらしいから、傘を持って行った方がいいよ。
(Kyō wa gogo kara ame ni narurashii kara kasa o motte itta hou ga ii yo.)
It will be rainy this afternoon, so you should take an umbrella.

3. 日本で働くなら、日本語を勉強した方がいい
(Nihon de hataraku nara nihongo o benkyō shita hou ga ii.)
If you want to work in Japan, you’d better study Japanese.

4. トムはもっと日本語の勉強をした方がいい。そうじゃないと卒業できないから。
(Tomu wa motto nihongo no benkyō o shita hou ga ii. Sō janai to sotsugyō dekinai kara.)
Tom should study Japanese harder. If he doesn’t, he won’t be able to graduate.

Dictionary Form Verb + 方がいい Vs. Past Tense Verbs + 方がいい

Dictionary Form Verb (Plain Present Tense) + 方がいい (hou ga ii) = You should ~.

You can also use 方がいい with present tense verbs like this:

(Karada ni ii mono o taberu hou ga ii.)
You should eat things that are good for you.  

So what’s the difference between 食べ方がいい (taberu hou ga ii) and 食べ方がいい (tabeta hou ga ii)?

  • Past tense verbs + 方がいい are used when offering advice to a specific person (personal advice).  
  • Dictionary (plain form) verbs + 方がいい are used to talk about general ideas (not directed at anyone specifically).  


1a. 体にいいものを食べる方がいい。(Generic idea)
(Karada ni iimono o taberu hou ga ii.)
You should eat things that are good for you.  

1b. 野菜を食べた方がいい。(Personal advice directed to a specific person
(Yasai o tabeta hou ga ii.)
You should eat vegetables.

2a. 具合が悪いときは、病院に行く方がいい。(Generic ideas)
(Guai ga warui toki wa byōin ni iku hou ga ii.)
When you are sick, you’d better go to see a doctor.  

2b. 具合が悪そうだね。病院に行ったほうがいいよ。(Specific and personal advice)
(Guai ga warusō da ne. Byōin ni itta hou ga ii yo.)
You look sick.  You’d better go to see a doctor.  

Dictionary form verbs + 方がいい are also commonly used when comparing the affirmative and negative of verbs, for example, する vs. しない (example #1 below). It is also used to choose the best option when there is more than one choice (examples #2 & 3 below). 


1. それをする方がいいしない方がいい
(Sore o suru hou ga ii? Shinai hou ga ii?)
Should I do that? Or should I not do that?  

2. ジャンクフードを食べるよりは、野菜を食べる方がいい
(Janku fūdo o taberu yori wa yasai o taberu hou ga ii.)
Eating vegetables is better than eating junk food. 

3. 粗悪品を買うよりは、多少高くても質の良いものを買う方がいい
(Soakuhin o kau yori wa tashou takakutemo shitsu no yoi mono o kau hou ga ii.)
It is better to buy quality products than inferior quality products, even if it’s a little more expensive.  

Verbs in Plain Negative (Nai Form) + 方がいい (Hou Ga Ii): It is Better Not to Do ~ / You Should Not Do ~

Verb in Plain Negative Form (Nai Form) + 方がいい = You shouldn’t do ~. / It’s better if you don’t do ~.  

Using a verb in the negative form along with 方がいい is an informal way to tell someone that they shouldn’t do something.   

Examples of Verbs in Negative Form:

  • 行く (iku) → 行かない (ikanai)
  • 見る (miru) → 見ない (minai
  • 食べる (taberu) → 食べない (tabenai)

If you would like to sound more formal/polite, you can add です (desu) after 方がいい like this: 〜ない方がいいです (~nai hou ga ii desu. ).


1. 今日は天気が悪いから、川には行かない方がいい
(Kyō wa tenki ga warui kara kawa ni wa ikanai hou ga ii.)
The weather is bad today, so you should not go to the river.

2. お腹が痛い時には何も食べない方がいい
(Onaka ga itai toki ni wa nanimo tabenai hou ga ii.)
When you have a stomach ache, it is better not to eat anything.

3. 暑い日は、あまり外に出ない方がいい
(Atsui hi ni wa amari soto ni denai hou ga ii.)
When it’s hot, it’s better not to go out.  

 4. 夜遅くに外出しない方がいいですよ
(Yoru osoku ni gaishutsu shinai hou ga ii desu yo.)
It is better not to go out late at night.

5. テレビは見過ぎない方がいいですよ
(Terebi wa misuginai hou ga ii desu yo.)
It is better not to watch too much TV.

Noun + の方がいい (Hou Ga Ii): Something is Better Than ~.

Noun + の (no) + 方がいい = I prefer ~. / ~ is better.  

Using 方がいい with nouns expresses that something is “better,” or that you prefer something.

Adding です (desu) at the end of the sentence will make this expression more formal/polite.  


1. パスタよりおにぎりの方がいい
(Pasuta yori onigiri no hou ga ii.)
Rice balls are better than pasta. / I prefer rice balls to pasta.

2. ハイヒールよりスニーカーの方がいい
(Haihīru yori sunīkā no hou ga ii.
Sneakers are better than high heels. 

3. 綾: ねえ、 赤いドレスと青いドレス、どっちの方がいいと思う
Aya: (Nē, akai doresu to aoi doresu, docchi no hou ga ii to omou?)
Aya: Hey, which do you think is better, the red or blue dress?

    智子:  赤いドレスの方がいいと思うな。
Tomoko: (Akai doresu no hou ga ii to omou na.)
Tomoko: I think the red one is better.

なら (Nara) + 方がいい (Hou Ga Ii): If ~, You Should Do ~.

Conditional なら (nara) + 方がいい = If ~, you should do ~.

This is a very natural and common expression.

Adding です (desu) at the end of the sentence will make it more formal/polite (example #3 below).  


1. 頭が痛いなら薬を飲んだほうがいいよ。
(Atama ga itai nara kusuri o nonda hou ga ii yo.)
If you have a headache, you should take medicine.

2. 帰りが遅くなるなら、タクシーを使った方がいいよ。
(Kaeri ga osoku naru nara takushī o tsukatta hou ga ii yo.)
If you come back late at night, you should take a taxi.

3. 申し訳ないと思うなら、きちんと謝った方がいいですよ。
(Mōshiwake nai to omou nara kichinto ayamatta hou ga ii desu yo.)
If you feel guilty, you should apologize.

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Yumi Nakata

Yumi is a native speaker of Japanese. She is living in Kanagawa, Japan, raising her three kids. She studied English as an exchange student in Washington state for a year. The days she spent with her American friends are some of the greatest memories of her life.

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