Good or Well?

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Good or Well?

What is the difference between "good" and "well"?
  • "Good" is usually an adjective.
    • A good solution
    • I am good.
  • "Well" can be an adjective or an adverb .
    • A well specimen (i.e., a healthy specimen)
    • I am well (in good health).
    • (In these two examples, "well" is an adjective.)
    • He played well.
    • (In this example, "well" is an adverb.)

I Am Good/Well

The sentences "I am good" and "I am well" are both grammatically sound. Remember that "good" and "well" can both be used as adjectives. For example:
  • I am good.
  • (This means "I am of a fair or high standard. Of note, "I am good" also has an idiomatic meaning of "I have what I need.")
  • I am well.
  • (This means "I am in good health.")
good or well?

Good

The adjective "good" means "of a fair or high standard."

Example sentences with "good":
  • My sister has enough money. She is good.
  • Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment. (Actor Will Rogers)

Well

The adjective "well" means "in good health."

Example sentences with "well":
  • My sister is over the virus. She is 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. (Actress Joan Collins)

More about "I Am Good" and "I Am Well"

Remember that both are correct.

Confusion arises because some people (ironically, it's those who think about grammar) believe an adverb must be used to modify the verb "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." So, they are right about that, but "am" is not a normal verb. It is a linking verb, and that's the point they miss. A linking verb is followed by an adjective or noun (called the subject complement). For example:
  • I am flamboyant.
  • (Here, "flamboyant" is an adjective. It is the subject complement of "am.")
  • I am a man.
  • (Here, "man" is a noun. It is the subject complement of "am.")
Be Careful with Linking Verbs


It is a common mistake to follow a linking verb with an adverb. This happens most commonly with "to smell," "to look," and "to taste." For example:
  • The dinner tastes wonderfully.
  • (This should be "wonderful.")
  • She looked amazingly.
  • (This should be "amazing.")
Be careful though. Look at this example:
  • The dog smells bad.
  • (Here, the adjective "bad" describes the smell of the dog.)
  • The dog smells badly.
  • (Here, "smells" is not a linking verb. The adverb "badly" tells us how the dog smells.)
Read more about linking verbs.

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).
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose? What are adjectives? What are adverbs? What are nouns? What are linking verbs? List of easily confused words