• Home
  • About
  • Site Map/Index
  • Feedback
  • Resources
  • Quotations
  • Spelling
  • Examples from the Real World
  • Grammar
  • News & Updates
  • Pronunciation
  • Punctuation
  • Word Choice
  • good/well

    When asked, “How are you doing?” many people will immediately answer, “I am doing good.” Unless they’re talking about the good they’re doing for their community, they should have answered instead with “I am doing well.”

    Good and well in the context illustrated above are no doubt two very commonly confused words. Good is an adjective (and a noun in some cases); well can be an adjective or an adverb, but in most cases, it is used as an adverb. In the example sentence, well should be used because an adverb is needed to modify the verb doing. Good is not the most appropriate word to use in this context because adjectives cannot modify verbs.

    Perhaps you’ve also wondered, “What about ‘I am feeling good ‘? Is this correct, or is it ‘I am feeling well‘?” Here’s where it can get tricky. Both are correct. But isn’t feeling a verb? Yes, but it is a linking verb. Linking verbs are different from other verbs in that they are not performing an action, but are connecting the subject with another word in the sentence. In both sentences, feeling links good and well back to the subject I. Good and well are not adverbs modifying the verb feeling; rather, they are adjectives modifying I, the subject of the sentence. Note that the meanings conveyed are different (feeling good refers to a state of mind; feeling well refers to health), but both are grammatically correct. The same is true when used with other linking verbs such as look. (You look good. You look well.) Looking good refers to attractiveness; looking well refers to health.

    In a nutshell:

    Good: always an adjective, never an adverb; never modifies a verb but can follow a linking verb and act as a modifier for the subject.

    Well: adjective or adverb depending on context. When an action verb is involved, an adverb is needed, and well is always the choice, never good.

    If you enjoyed this post, sign up to receive updates by RSS feed or e-mail.

    Posted by Rachel V. in Word Choice

    24 Responses to “good/well”

    Thank you for taking the time to add your thoughts to the discussion. I can't respond to every comment, but I read and appreciate them all.

    1. greg says:

      Would “doing” be a linking verb in the phrase “How are you doing?” when the meaning of the phrase is the same as “How are you?”?

      • greg says:

        What I mean is when someone asks “How are you doing?” and they are referring to your internal state and not a task you are currently doing.

        I would think it would be like the word “feeling”.

        I am doing good. I am feeling good.

        If not then don’t both indicate an action? The phrases I am feeling good and I am doing good would both indicate yourself as performing the action of existing, correct?

        • greg says:

          Sorry about leaving out the question mark in the previous post.

          I just want to clarify further.

          The phrases “I am…”, “I am feeling…”, “I am doing…” should all refer to some sort of action shouldn’t they regardless of whether it is an internal state of being and being itself being the action of existing OR an external action you are performing.

          If so then I am not sure why “doing” and “feeling” can not both be linking verbs when they are both used to refer to an internal state of being.

          According to the rules you states if you are internally doing well or feeling well then both the words refer to an action and should only be action verbs. Why is feeling not counted as an action then?

      • Rachel V. says:

        To my knowledge, doing is not a linking verb. I think “How are you doing?” (and the response, “I am doing good”) can be considered colloquial, so it will pass in conversation, even though it’s not grammatically correct.

    2. Libby says:

      What about “I liked it so well….” ? I had an email from someone say thing that and it seems incorrect.

    3. Yvette says:

      Essentially, responding by saying, ” I am good.” is perfectly acceptable.

      Please visit grammargirl.com or other reputable English language websites.

    4. Sera says:

      Hi! So is it ok to say good grammar OR well grammar?

    5. arparp says:

      Good can be used as an adverb and the OED has cites of such going back to the 1300s. You’re a failure.

    6. counterbeer says:

      A very good and comprehensive description of the use of good and well, thank you very much…
      But I’m still not sure whether I can apply:
      “Be good.”
      or has it to be
      “Be well.”
      instead?

      Thanks a load!

      • Rachel V. says:

        I’m glad you found the explanation helpful!

        When saying “Be good,” it’s usually a statement about behavior, not feelings or health. You’re admonishing someone to behave, not instructing them to stay healthy (“be well”). “Be good” is the same as saying, “Don’t be bad.”

        Does that clarify?

        • counterbeer says:

          Thank you very much for this explanation, Rachel…
          Now it’s fully understood, you made my day :)

    7. Anonymous says:

      This innane and supercilious discussion on a single grammatical rule has left me with no doubt that stringent grammarians are among the most pedantic and unhappy of people.

      • Joshua says:

        On the contrary, grammatical pedantry gives me almost indescribable pleasure. By the way, it’s ‘inane’, with one ‘n’.

    8. SC says:

      This was very helpful, but I have a question.
      When asked “How are you?” does one assume the implication “How are you doing?” or “How are you feeling?”

      • Rachel V. says:

        Good question. If you’re replying with a one-word answer (as many people do), it hardly matters.

        “How are you?”

        “Good.”

        “Well.”

        “Fine.”

    9. Katrina says:

      I am hoping someone can help me out with an argument I’ve been having with a friend. Is saying “I like him pretty well” correct? Can “well” modify “like”?

    10. bzkhan says:

      its gud to knw the difference between the good n well, but inmodern english we can use well most in place of gud.

    11. That’s why “I am well” sounds so stupid to me. Sure “well” CAN be an adjective, but it’s usually used as an adverb. And, well, a noun too. And an interjection. But you wouldn’t taste somebody’s cooking and say “Mmm! This casserole is so well!” So what I hear when people say “I am well,” is: “I’m doing good job of existing!”

    12. Rachel V. says:

      Pieter: I’m not sure about this reasoning. I don’t think that “taking” is ever considered to be a linking verb, but I could be mistaken. Here is some additional information that I found on linking verbs:

      http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/verbs.htm#linking

    13. Pieter says:

      If “Good and well are not adverbs modifying the verb feeling; rather, they are adjectives modifying I”, then a similar line of reasoning might be applied to “taking me serious” and “taking me seriously”. Any comments?

    14. ahmed says:

      thank u,i got stunning informations about good and well