Friday, April 15, 2016

Good vs. Well

Does he ride well, and also look well in his hunt coat?

Good is an adjective while well is an adverb answering the question how. Sometimes well also functions as an adjective pertaining to health.


You did a good job.

Good describes job, which is a noun, so good is an adjective.

You did the job well.

Well is an adverb describing how the job was performed.

I feel well.

Well is an adjective describing I.

Rule: With the four senses—look, smell, taste, feel—discern if these words are being used actively to decide whether to follow them with good or well. (Hear is always used actively.)


You smell good today.

Good describes you, not how you sniff with your nose.
You smell well for someone with a cold.

You are sniffing actively with your nose here so use the adverb.

She looks good for a 75-year-old grandmother.

She is not looking actively with eyes so use the adjective.

Rule: When referring to health, always use well.


I do not feel well today.

You do not look well.

Rule: When describing someone’s emotional state, use good.

Example: He doesn’t feel good about having cheated.

So, how should you answer the question, “How are you?” If you think someone is asking about your physical well-being, answer, “I feel well,” or “I don’t feel well.” If someone is asking about your emotional state, answer, “I feel good,” or “I don’t feel good.”

Pop Quiz

1. She jogged very good/well for her age.
2. She had a good/well time yesterday.
3. With a high fever, it is unlikely he will feel good/well enough to 

play basketball tomorrow.
4. Those glasses look good/well on you.

Pop Quiz Answers

1. She jogged very well for her age.
2. She had a good time yesterday.
3. With a high fever, it is unlikely he will feel well enough to play    

    basketball tomorrow.
4. Those glasses look good on you.

Posted on Friday, April 6, 2007, at 11:07 pm

In a comment,Catherine H says:

October 30, 2014, at 5:25 am
“In Bermuda they use the well rather than good to describe taste or smell. For example “that tastes well” or “that perfume smells well”. Funnily enough I remember some old Irish nuns from my childhood (in New Zealand) also used well in this context. Is this perhaps an old dialect usage that has persisted in isolated spots like Bermuda? I have been unable to find information on this."

Reply November 3, 2014, at 2:46 pm says:
November 3, 2014, at 2:46 pm
“That is very interesting. Because of our emphasis on American English usage, we have no particular knowledge about these kinds of usages.”

What’s interesting to me about this is that I have read “well” being used this way in Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. A woman would say, “That cravat looks well on you, James.” Or, “She looks well in a riding habit.”

As a result, I tend to use “well” in that way. As in – “You look well in that sweater, Lucy.” It may not be correct usage in America, but it is – or at least it was, in England. And after all, the language is called “English,” not “Amerish.” 

And here's another annoying mis-use of the language:

Bored by, of, or with?

Which of these expressions should you use: is one of them less acceptable than the others?

Do you ever get bored with eating out all the time?
Delegates were bored by the lectures.
He grew bored of his day job.

The first two constructions, bored with and bored by, are the standard ones. The third, bored of, is more recent than the other two and it’s become extremely common. In fact, the Oxford English Corpus contains almost twice as many instances of bored of than bored by. It represents a perfectly logical development of the language, and was probably formed on the pattern of expressions such as tired of or weary of. Nevertheless, some people dislike it and it’s not fully accepted in standard English. It’s best to avoid using it in formal writing.

This is one that Americans – especially young, Internet-posting Americans do all the time.  Evidently they don’t realize how uneducated and boorish it makes them sound.  I read it in an article in the National Geographic the other day, and it wasn’t in a quote. (I blame Rupert Murdoch for that particular decline in quality.) I’ve also read it in the Atlantic Monthly.  Tsk, tsk.

And then there’s “irregardless.”  Feh! The Department of Redundancy Department.

Yes, she does look like a person who could be tedious in the extreme, and I for one, could hardly tear my eyes from that little gray shadow between her nostrils.  (A shadow? A smudge of ink?)  But she’s right, you know.  Ditch that silly word.

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