[Ads-l] "best" as invariable modal verb

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Aug 10 17:02:36 UTC 2017

One odd difference between “best” as a verb/post-verbal adverb and “better” is that the latter allows a “neg-raising” version while the former, at least for me, does not:

You (had) better not try that again.
You hadn’t better try that again.
You (had) best not try that again.
*You hadn’t best try that again.

(YMMV, but Google backs me up on this.)


> On Aug 10, 2017, at 11:40 AM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> For Language Log, I wrote about Trump's threat, "North Korea best not...":
> http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=34000
> Towards the end there's a 66-year antedating of OED3 "best" v.2 (1900 ->
> 1834).
> 1834 Charles Augustus Davis _Letters of J. Downing, Major_ 256 'Well,' says
> Mr. Van Buren, it's a pretty severe letter, but we best not translate it --
> I'll read it as it is, with pleasure.'
> https://books.google.com/books?id=Vk0LAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA256
> --bgz
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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