Are You “Good” or Are you “Well?” 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.” But which is correct?
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 really need to look at the verb in the 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: 1. The first is action verbs: Action verbs do just what they say; they 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 can use an adverb, such as “well.” An adverb answers the question “how.”
Look at the following examples:
“The baby eats well.” “Eat” is the action verb, and “well” is the adverb that describes it. How does the baby eat? He eats well.
“He works well with computers.” “Works” is the 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.” “Drive” is the action verb and “well” is the adverb that describes it. How does my daughter drive? She drives well.
“John runs well.” “Runs” is the action verb and “well” is the adverb that describe it. How does John run? He runs well.
2. The second of verbs are linking verbs: Linking verbs do not express an action, but they connect or “link” the subject of the sentence with more information about it. Linking verbs include forms of the verb “to be”, (am, are, is, was, were), they express senses (such as “smells”, “looks”, “tastes”, “sounds”) and they include verbs such as “feel”, “seem”, and “appear.”
Use “good” after a linking verb: When we use a linking verb, we can use an adjective to describe the subject, such as “good.”
Here is a trick that I learned to help you figure out when a verb is a linking verb: If you can substitute a form of the verb “to be” for the verb (and remember this is: am, is, are, was, were), it is a linking verb.
Look at the following examples:
“I feel good.” “Feel” is the sense verb and “good” is the adjective that describes “I.” If I replace “feel” with “am”, the sentence becomes “I am good”, which still makes sense.
“John appears good.” “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 still makes sense.
“She looks good.” “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 still makes sense.
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?” This is the complicated part, because the short answer is “no”, and let me explain why:
The word “well” is usually used to mean “healthy.” So, let’s say that you got in a car accident and are recovering from injuries you received in the accident. In this case, if you are recovering and are becoming healthy, 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 correct to use "good" after an action verb. For example, it is incorrect to say, “He drives good.” We must say, “He drives well.”
I hope you now feel “good” about using the words “good” and “well” and that you will now speak and write “well!”
Cheryl Posey, MS CCC-SLP firstname.lastname@example.org 774-212-3241 Copyright 2010-2019