Good Grammar Is . . . : Good vs. Well

Apr 29, 2015


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One of the most significant faux pas I have made as an English teacher occurred during my year of student teaching. My mentor teacher, thankfully, was not above correcting how I spoke, and I honestly took no offense as I had never been taught the difference between “good” and “well”.

Needless to say, it’s a very simple lesson to learn, and while using “good” incorrectly as an adverb to respond the question in the example above in daily casual vernacular is fine (for goodness sakes, television scripts regularly have their actors say it incorrectly intentionally to mimic the public), the key is to know when to reveal your understanding of the difference and when to just let go.

A job interview or a formal setting in which an impression of knowledge and competence for the English language is expected: Use it. While spending time with family, friends, and acquaintances in a casual environment: Let your hair down.

~Good Grammar Is . . . POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES:

~Mastering the Semicolon

~The Inaugural Post

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10 thoughts on “Good Grammar Is . . . : Good vs. Well

  1. Yes, we say “I’m good” in NZ as well. Although, it is grammatically incorrect it wouldn’t be considered a faux pas in most situations. I suppose that I might say “I am well, thank you.” in a very formal situation but that might sound a bit artificial to some people.
    I think in a job interview it would still be acceptable to say “I’m good” without anyone thinking you had “bad” grammar, as it is an accepted colloquialism in NZ.

  2. So easy to interchange the two sometimes, you’re completely right! I think one of the only times it really bothers me is when people incorrectly say “it’s going good.” It just sounds so wrong to my ears, even worst than “I’m doing good.” I don’t know why but the first one just makes me want to be like, don’t you mean “well”?? Hehe 🙂

    1. I think a very good subject for grammatical error and the proper usage would be the word “like.” As in the above comment, the word “like” is a filler. This new and improper usage came from the old “Valley Girl” grammar where every other word was “like.” It is so wrong.

  3. This is a very common problem, but fortunately one I don’t have issues with. One area where I continue to stumble at times is who vs. whom. Hope you cover this one in one of your posts.

    Thanks.

  4. Isn’t that funny! I agree that there is a time and place for well/good. My SIL once asked me how I was doing and I responded with, “I’m quite well, thank you!” And, she called me out for being so formal. It actually took me a minute to figure out what she was referring to.

  5. How are you? I am good!

    The difference lies in the two questions- “How are you?” vs. “How are you doing?” I am doing well- because the adverb well modifies the verb “to do.”
    How am I? I am good. I am good because good is an adjective, and as we all know, adjectives can be used with linking verbs. For example- He is smart.

    The difference is in whether or not there is a linking verb or an action verb present!
    Furthermore, well can be used as an adjective- but only in speaking about health. So when someone asks you – “How are you?”- are they asking about your health? Or are they asking about your general day and demeanor? Probably the later.

    See Mignon Fogarty’s article: Good vs. Well
    https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/good-versus-well?page=all

    1. Joan W’s analysis is correct to my knowledge. You say “I am good” because of the linking verb. You only say “I am well” when you are stressing the fact that you had been ill but no longer are.

  6. This is actually incorrect, but it’s a common mistake. When you use “am” you need an adjective because you are describing a condition of yourself. Because of this, you would use good—“I am good.” If you replace it with another adjective, you can see how this makes sense—I am green or I am handsome.

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