Better off using ‘better off’

Many students spend hours reading grammar books in order to improve their English. However, they are probably better off reading novels instead.

Most people are familiar with better off as the comparative form of well off (= wealthy). However, better off has other uses in IELTS speaking and writing (Task 2).

In IELTS terms, better off..

  1. relatively low frequency and therefore a high band lexical item.
  2. ..can be used to demonstrate more than one grammatical structure.
  3. ‘evaluative’, meaning that it can be used to express and support opinion, for example in Task 2 arguments.

Better off + __ing

This means that it would be better to do something else / an alternative solution would be better.

  • A driver is much better off avoiding the bad weather completely.
  • It would be better for a driver to avoid bad weather completely. Avoiding bad weather is a good idea.
  • You are much better off creating your own.
  • Creating your own is good. It is better to create your own.
  • You are better off using a spectrum analyzer.
  • It is a good idea to use a spectrum analyzer.

Better off + with / without

A situation is better with/without someone/something.

  • The world would be better off without mosquitoes.
  • Without mosquitoes the world is better.
  • A group is always better off with a healer.
  • With a healer a group is better.
  • My boyfriend was a jerk. I’m better off without him!
  • Without my boyfriend my life is better.

Better off + adverb

Tells us how, when or where someone/something is better off.

  • You may be better off somewhere else.
  • ‘somewhere’ else tells us where your life may be better.
  • Which approaches make participants better off financially?
  • ‘financially’ tells us how approaches make participants’ lives better.
  • Although the changes will be difficult, the country will be better off in the long run.
  • ‘in the long run’ tells us when the country will be better.

Worse off

Although this is indeed the opposite of better off, it is much less common and probably best avoided.


Try re-writing the following text using better off where appropriate! Why not type your edited text in the comments box below?!

Practice is the key to progress when learning a language. Take every opportunity you can to practice the language featured on GuruEAP and don’t bother reading and re-reading grammar books. Also try to follow a regular study routine. Don’t wait until a week before the test and then all of a sudden start working! And if tomorrow is test day, go to bed early. Don’t stay up late reading through your notes.

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