Good or Well?

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What is the difference between good and well?

This page is about whether to write "I am good" or "I am well". It is about the use of good and well as adjectives.

The sentences "I am good" and "I am well" are both grammatically sound. Good and well can both be used as adjectives. For example:
  • I am good.
  • (This means "I am of a fair or high standard.")
  • I am well.
  • (This means "I am in good health.")

Good

The adjective good means of a fair or high standard.

Examples:
  • I am good.
  • Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment. (Will Rogers)

Well

The adjective well means in good health.

Examples:
  • I am well.
  • If you feel well and happy, your face will reflect this, but if you are having a miserable time, your face will soon show it. (Joan Collins)

Should I say "I am good" or "I am well"?

Both are correct. In these sentences, good and well are both adjectives.

Confusion arises because many people believe an adverb must follow I am, and they know that well is the adverb of good.

In the sentences "I am good" and "I am well", the verb is am. This is a linking verb, and a linking verb is typically followed by an adjective or noun (called the subject complement). For example:
  • I am flamboyant.
  • (Here, flamboyant is an adjective.)
  • I am a man.
  • (Here, man is a noun.)
Read more about linking verbs.

Be Careful When Following a Linking Verb with an Adverb

The question of whether to use an adverb or an adjective also arises with other linking verbs, particularly to smell, to look, and to taste. For example:
  • The dog smells bad.
  • (Here, the adjective bad describes the smell of the dog.
  • The dog smells badly.
  • (Here, the adverb badly describes the dog's ability to smell; i.e., it tells us the dog does not have a good sense of smell.)
Here are some examples of adverbs being used incorrectly after linking verbs:
  • The dinner tastes wonderfully.
  • She looked amazingly.

A Trick to Help with Good and Well

A good way to determine whether you need the adjective good or the adverb well is to use the word quick instead. If you find yourself drawn to quickly, then you need well (as both are adverbs). However, if you find yourself drawn to quick, then you need good (as both are adjectives).
 
 


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