Are You “Good” Or Are You “Well?”

 


This is a guest post by Cheryl Posey.  She is a licensed and nationally certified speech pathologist that focuses on Accent Reduction and Communication Skills Training.  You can find and follow her on her Speaking Your Best
 website. 

 
Which One is Correct?

We ask and answer the question, “how are you?” each day many, many times. The responses we hear vary. For example: “I’m well, thanks.” “I’m good.” However, which is correct?

Are You Good Or Are You Well

Image courtesy of vectorolie / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Let’s take a look at some guidelines that will help you determine when to use “good” and “well.” In order to do this, we need to look at the verb in a sentence we use with these words as they will tell us whether we should use “good” or “well”.

 

We have two kinds of verbs in English:

Action verbs:

Action verbs describe actions. Examples of action verbs include the following: “eat,” “work,” “drive,” and “run.”

Use “well” to describe an action verb: When we describe an action verb, we use an adverb, such as “well.” An adverb answers the question “how.”

Look at the following examples

  • “The baby eats well.” The word “eat” is an action verb, and “well” is the adverb that describes it. How does the baby eat? He eats well.
  • “He works well with computers.” The word “works,” is an action verb, and “well” is the adverb that describes it. How does he work with computers? He works well.
  • “My daughter doesn’t drive well.” The word “drive,” is an action verb, and “well” is the adverb that describes it. How does my daughter drive? She drives well.
  • “John runs well.” The word “runs” is an action verb, and “well” is the adverb that describe it. How does John run? He runs well.

 

Linking verbs:

Linking verbs connect or “link” the subject of the sentence with more information about it. They do not express action. Linking verbs include forms of the verb “to be”, (am, are, is, was, were), express senses (such as “smells”, “looks”, “tastes”, “sounds”) and include verbs such as “feel”, “seem”, and “appear.”

Use “good” after a linking verb: When we use a linking verb, we use an adjective to describe the subject, such as good.” If you can substitute a form of the verb “to be” (am, is, are, was, were) for the verb in a sentence, then it is probably a linking verb.

Look at the following examples:

  • “I feel good.” The word “feel” is a sense verb, and “good” is the adjective that describes “I.” If I replace “feel” with “am,” the sentence becomes “I am good,” which is grammatically correct.
  • “John appears good.” The word “appears is the linking verb, and “good” is the adjective that describes “John.” If I replace “appears with “is,” the sentence becomes, “John is good” which is grammatically correct.
  • “She looks good.” The word “looks” is the linking verb, and “good” is the adjective that describes “she.” If I replace “looks” with “was,” the sentence becomes, “She was good” which is grammatically correct.

 

So, to summarize, the general rules are:

  • The word “well” is an adverb and the word “good” is an adjective.
  • Use “well” after an action verb.
  • Use “good” after a linking or sense verb.

OK, now here is the tricky part:

Right about now, you might be saying that you hear people say, “I’m well” all the time. Are they all wrong?” No, they are not wrong, and this is why:

  • The word “well” is usually used to mean “healthy.” So, let’s say that you are in a car accident and are recovering from injuries you received in an accident. In this case, if you are recovering and are becoming healthy, so you can use “well” after a linking verb and say “I am well, thanks.”

Can we ever use “good” after an action verb? No, it is never grammatically correct to use the adjective “good” after an action verb. For example, it is incorrect to say, “He speaks good.” We must say, “He speaks well.”

I hope you now feel “good” about using the words “good” and “well” and that you will now speak and write “well!”

 

Question:  What tricks do you use to remember which word to use?  

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