Good vs well
Good is an adjective, meaning it modifies people, places, and things. You can eat good food and read good books. Well is an adverb, so it modifies action verbs. Action verbs are those that describe actions, such as cooking or writing. You can sing well or, if you are good at eating food, eat food well.
There is another group of verbs called linking verbs. These do not describe actions, but connect other words together. The most common linking verb is to be. This group also includes words such as to seem, to look, or those describing senses such as to feel or to smell.
Some verbs can be both action verbs and linking verbs. If you can replace a verb with a form of to be, it’s probably a linking verb:
- She smells nice. → She is nice. (Still works, making “smells” a linking verb.)
- She smells flowers. → She is flowers. (Does not work, making “smells” an action verb.)
We use adjectives after linking verbs. They refer to the noun before the verb, making them predicate adjectives. Good is such a predicate adjective. Well can be both an adverb and a predicate adjective.
- Joe ran well. (Well is an adverb describing Joe’s action of running.)
- Joe is well. (Well is a predicate adjective, describing how Joe is.)
Because both good and well are predicate adjectives, it is fine to reply “I am good” or “I am well” when someone asks you how you are doing.
Good can also be a noun, such as in “consumer goods” or “the greater good”. When someone asks you what you are doing, you can still say “I am doing good”. This makes good a noun, meaning that you are doing “good deeds”. Never let grammar nitpickers tell you you aren’t!
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Good vs well
You’re doing well, Superman is doing good. This lesson looks at the rules behind which of these two is correct in a given situation.Read full lesson