Expressing "had better" with "haishi"
One of the ways to use 还是 (háishì) is to have it mean "you had better," similar to how in English we may say "I think you had better start on your homework."
还是 as an adverb can express "had better" or "it would be better to." The idea is that the speaker has given the matter some thought, and after considering it, has finally come to a decision. The announcement of this decision will frequently include 还是, and it usually comes before a verb or a subject.
Subj. + 还是 + [Verb Phrase] + 吧
吧 is often placed after this structure, as it's a suggestion.
- 还是 明天 去 吧 。We'd better go tomorrow.
- 还是 让 她 进来 吧 。We'd better let her come in.
- 你 还是 快点 走 吧 。You'd better leave now.
- 我们 还是 帮帮 他 吧 。We'd better help him.
- 太 晚 了 ，还是 先 回家 吧 。It's too late. We'd better go home now.
- 这里 太 脏 了，我们 还是 走 吧 。It's too dirty here; we'd better leave.
- 快 迟到 了 ，我们 还是 打车 吧 。We're running late. Let's take a taxi.
When the part after 还是 is a negative verb phrase, it's OK to drop the 吧 at the end.
- 太 贵 了 ，还是 别 买 了 。It's too expensive. You'd better not buy it.
- 她 不 想 说 ，还是 不要 再 问 了 。She doesn't want to say anything. We'd better stop asking.
- 他 一定 不 同意 ，还是 别 跟 他 说 了 。He will definitely disagree. We'd better not tell him.
Sources and further reading
- Chinese: An Essential Grammar, Second Edition (pp. 144) →buy
- Integrated Chinese: Level 1, Part 1 (3rd ed) (pp. 259-60) →buy
- New Practical Chinese Reader 4 (新实用汉语课本4) (pp. 103) →buy
- 卓越汉语－公司实战篇 (pp. 211) [ →buy]