Good vs. Well



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

136 Comments on Good vs. Well

136 responses to “Good vs. Well

  1. engee says:

    Thank you, thank you, and thank you again, Jane Straus.
    Your web page seems to be something I’ve been looking for for so many years! It’s EXCELLENT!
    And now, speaking of the differences between the adjective ‘good’ and the adverb ‘well’. It wasn’t until a moment ago that I found out that you can use an adverb with the verbs of senses, like ‘smell’ or ‘look’. You presented the usage in a brilliant way! But, as I wrote earlier, I didn’t know that.
    Looking forward for any comment on my comment.

  2. Jane says:

    What can I say except thank you for the lovely acknowledgment. You made my day!

  3. engee says:

    Just the way as you did mine, Jane. From yesterday on, I’m going to be HERE every and each day of my presence on the Net! I’ve got so much helpful information to read in your brilliant Blue Book, and right here, in your extremely interesting Grammar Blog!
    Thank you.

  4. Jane says:

    You’re very welcome!

  5. Trinh Nguyen says:

    Can we answer “I’m good” if someone asks “How are you?” ?

    • Jane says:

      Technically, when referring to health, we should use “well.” However, so few people answer this way that “good” is becoming more accepted as a response.

      • rob in ny says:

        but health is not a verb, so why would you ise well?

        In the q and a: how are you, i am … the questioner is asking you to describe your condition. the answer should be an adjective.

        think about this: q. how is that car i sold you last month? would you answer, “it’s well?” no, you’d answer it’s good.

        • One of the dictionary definitions of the word well is an adjective meaning “in good health,” especially in reference to people when free of illness or injury.

        • Kevin says:

          The car is looking good.
          The car continues to run well.

        • Tamara says:

          “How?” is a question that adverbs answers not adjective…. Therefore, it is confusing for many people to think of the correct usage of an adjective “good” instead of an adverb “well”.

          But again, people are the ones who make language. And if majority of them continue using good instead of well or vice versa, it will become a norm.

      • Brad says:

        The question, “How are you?” is a rather ambiguous question. It can either be referring to physical health, or emotional well-being. As you stated in your article Jane, if the question is referring to physical health, “well” would be the appropriate response. If the question is to emotional state, “good” is the appropriate response. If someone asks me, “How are you today?” I am likely to interpret that as a question as to my emotional, or mental state. Therefore I would reply, “good.” Seems to me, it depends a lot on how the hearer interprets the question.

  6. Trinh Nguyen says:

    Thank you Jane for answering my question. I found your website is extremely helpful for a second language learner like me. Again, many thanks!

  7. Merissa says:

    Is it okay to say, “Either day works great for me!” Versus “Either day works well for me?”

  8. No says:

    No, it isn’t, it may be an adverb in American circles but if you are using English internationally then stay clear of it. Works great can suggest a lack of education, given it is actually an adjective….

  9. Leon says:

    I learned something from your excellent post. One thing that you do not address is the answer, “I am doing good.” to the question, “How are you?” This is incorrect unless they are telling you that they are doing something that is beneficial. The correct statement, when using doing, would be to say, “I am doing well.” The mistake would be similar to someone saying, “I do not smell very good.” when they mean that their sense of smell is not functioning as it should.

    • You make an excellent point! We do hear “I am doing good” used quite often in response to “How are you?” It is correct when used in the sense of “I am getting good things accomplished.”

  10. Leon says:

    I just thought of something else. When someone asks, “How are you doing?” instead of “How are you?” what is the correct response?

    • There are a number of different responses that could be used. A few examples might be:
      “I am doing well.”
      “I am doing fine.”
      “I am not doing well.”

      • Isn’t “fine” being used as an adjective here? And if so, what is wrong with using “good.?” Besides, when you look up in Merriam_Webster, they cite the notion that you can’t use good to refer to health as antiquated.

        good vs. well
        An old notion that it is wrong to say “I feel good” in reference to health still occasionally appears in print. The origins of this notion are obscure, but they seem to combine someone’s idea that good should be reserved to describe virtue and uncertainty about whether an adverb or an adjective should follow feel. Today nearly everyone agrees that both good and well can be predicate adjectives after feel. Both are used to express good health, but good may connote good spirits in addition to good health.

        • Yes, fine is an adjective. In the example sentence above from Leon that you commented on, we prefer “I am doing well” when referring to one’s general well-being. “I am doing good” could imply you are doing something beneficial.

  11. Carol says:

    I am thinking about wearing a sign that says, “…doing well” since it seems everyone in my world has begun to use the word good when they should be using well!! Any supporters out there?

  12. Louise Schneider says:

    What about “The cookies came out good.” meaning they were baked and they were good cookies . BUt should it be “well” ? Are we talking about how they came out or whether they tasted good?

    • If you said, “The cookies came out good,” that would indicate that they came out tasting good. To remove any doubt, you could say, “The cookies came out tasting good.” If you said, “The cookies came out well,” that would indicate that the cookies were baked well.

  13. Tom says:

    Jane, you indicate above that “I am doing fine” is an appropriate response to the question, “How are you doing?” But how does “fine” in this case differ from using “good?”

    “I am doing fine.”
    “I am fine.”
    “I am doing good.”
    “I am good.”

  14. Tom says:

    Yes, the interpretation issue makes sense; I guess what I was more unsure of was how “fine” was functioning differently from “good” in this case. Is “fine” functioning as an adverb, or is “am doing” functioning in a linking capacity, with “fine” modifying “I” in its usual role as an adjective?

  15. Jon says:

    Thanks for the concise explanation, but are there not 5 senses? Hear,look, smell, taste, feel? Thanks again for the good info.

  16. Andy says:

    Jane,

    Thanks! What a great site.

    Would you please settle a couple of friendly office disagreements for me?

    (1) You say that how to answer “How are you?” depends on whether you think the person is asking about physical or emotional well-being. Aren’t we usually asking both when we ask that question? Asking that question, I would expect to hear answers like “My mother just died” or “I just won the lottery” as well as “I have a cold” or “I just ran a marathon.” What about these instances where it appears the person wonders about both?

    (2) Would you agree “I feel good about my test yesterday” is always right and “I feel well about my test yesterday” is always wrong?

    Thanks,
    Andy

    • In most common everyday interactions, “How are you?” is just a polite greeting where a detailed answer about physical health or one’s emotional state is not usually called for. The best, most grammatically correct way to answer to cover both the physical and emotional realms is not to use good or well at all but rather to say something like “I’m fine, how are you?”

      If you asked coworkers “How are you?” they could answer with one of the specific responses you mentioned, but in a full and grammatically correct way using good or well by saying:

      “I feel very good; I just won the lottery!”

      “Not so good; my mother just died.”

      “I’m not feeling well; I have a cold.”

      (In the case of the marathon, how the person feels may encompass both the physical and emotional realms and is more likely to be answered with more specific words like tired, spent, exhausted, elated, proud, etc. than with good or well.)

      I do agree with you on your second question.

  17. Larry Scott says:

    If you are referring to a body part that is hurting, do you use good or well?

    example: My stomach doesn’t feel very good.

    Should you use “good” or “well” to be correct grammatically?

  18. Richard says:

    I came across this site for the clarification of the following heard on the tv show ‘bachelor’ by Chris the host. His question, ‘it sounds like it’s going great’.
    My take is, for example, that wonderful and great are similar in that they are adjectives. It is clear that ‘it sounds like it’s going wonderful’ is missing the ‘ly’. Should not it be ‘… It’s going greatly’? Or choose a different word if that sounds off, while accurate.
    So what is correct? It’s going greatly – I haven’t heard that in forever perhaps given our declining language use. Lol, let’s hear it folks…

    • Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary says that the word great can either be an adjective or an adverb. The entry for great as an adverb reads, “in a great manner : successfully, well .” In a formal context, you might reword to “It is going wonderfully” or “It is going very well.” We’re not surprised you have not heard It’s going greatly “in forever.” We don’t know whether it has ever been acceptable to use greatly in that way.

  19. ivan says:

    needa help?
    is this correct ?
    i am not turning to work today.My stomach not feeling well??

    do we use turning or attending? AND
    stomach not feeling well or i am not feeling well?

  20. Aliyah says:

    Is it ‘we’ve done good’ or ‘we’ve done well’?

  21. Rob says:

    A term that has recently come into use in South Africa is “They sent well wishes…” Instead of “They sent good wishes…” The former is wrong, but I would like to know the grammatical explanation. Regards, Rob.

    • The word wishes is a noun, so you need an adjective to describe it. The word good is an adjective. Well is an adverb that answers the question how, as in the sentence “Your team played well today.”

  22. James says:

    I’d have to say you’re wrong when talking about your health. To be is a linking verb and describes the quality of the person.
    I am good is correct.
    I am well means that your quality of being able to exist is good.
    An orange tastes good not well.

    • The two sentences I am good and I am well have different meanings. I am good means “I am virtuous, righteous, pious.” I am well means “I am in good health.”

      The sentence An orange tastes good is consistent with our 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.” Only if an orange could do the tasting could it taste well.

  23. Chris says:

    Thank You! That helped alot!

  24. akshay says:

    What is the grammatically correct answer to the question how are you?
    1.I am fine 2. I am good 3.I am doing fine. 4. I am doing good.
    also, please give reason(I read somewhere that the answer of ‘how’ should be an adverb.Is it correct?)

    • Good is an adjective while well is an adverb answering the question how. The word well can be an adjective, too. When referring to health, we often use well rather than good. If you think the question is just a polite greeting, there are many possible answers, including, “I feel well,” “I am doing well,” and “I am well.” (Saying “I am good” could imply that you are saying, “I am virtuous.”)

      • akshay says:

        okay,and is fine also an adverb in ‘I am fine’?I think it should be as it answers ‘how’,isn’t it?

        • In the sentence “I am fine,” the word fine describes the pronoun I. Therefore, it is an adjective. In the sentence “I am doing fine,” the word fine describes the verb doing. Therefore, it is an adverb.

          • akshay says:

            ya,absolutely clear,thanks

          • We would like to add a bit more information for you:
            “I am well” is the standard answer to “How are you?”
            “I am doing well” is another way of saying, “I am well.”
            “I am good” generally means “I am a good person.”
            “I am doing good” means “I am accomplishing things for the welfare of the world.”

  25. Ruthie says:

    Here’s one that’s trouble me: Speaking about movement in the show ring, I often hear, “That is a good-moving dog.” But should it be “well-moving”? I recently came across a similar construction: “a well-functioning training manual.” Can you help?

  26. Bagus Ismail says:

    I love it, you catch my mind. I’m so bright what you have written on your blog here. I’m Indonesian, so i wanna say “Terima kasih banyak” that means “thanks a lot”, your sharing is so helpful for me. See you then.

  27. Kevin says:

    At the beginning of this definition you’ve said, “‘Good’ describes ‘job’, so ‘good’ is an adjective.” To make a more easily comparable example of the difference between the use of the words ‘good’ and ‘well’, I would suggest stating, “‘Well’ describes ‘did’, which is a verb, so ‘well’ is an adverb.”

  28. Deepa says:

    Had been teaching my son and need ur help ..Which is the adverb in the follwoing sentences..and which degree of adverb is it

    1.It is not really a good time to talk to her

    2. It was soon time to say goodbye

    • In your first sentence the adverb is really. The adverb in the second sentence is soon. They are both positive adverbs because they express a quality without reference to any other thing. Both sentences need periods at the end to be grammatically correct.

  29. Ria says:

    Oh i understand !!!!!!!

  30. Caj says:

    What about:
    “It does my heart so good.” vs. “It does my heart so well.”?

    • The phrase “does my heart good” is an idiom meaning “make someone feel good emotionally.” The word “well” is never used in this phrase. An idiom is an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its separate words but that has a separate meaning of its own.

  31. Shaina says:

    Hi there,

    Can you help me to know what would be correct? Is there a time that would work well for you or a time that would work good for you?

    Thanks so much for your feedback!

    Shaina

  32. Sandy Stricklin says:

    Jane,
    Which statement is correct?
    1. It didn’t work out very well for him.
    Or
    2.It didn’t work out very good for him.

    Thank you.

  33. Marcus Molineaux says:

    It doesn’t make sense to have well attributed to a physical state and good attributed to an emotional state.

    Good should be attributed to both physical and emotional, well should be attributed to the measurement of accuracy in the sense of touch.

    “I don’t feel well” Meaning your sense of touch is not up to par. “Well” is an adverb describing the measure of the verb “feel” in this case.

    Using good in “I don’t feel good” For emotional and physiological is describing the noun’s state regardless of the facet, and thus should be used for both situations.

    • In the sentence “I don’t feel well,” the word well is an adjective describing the word I. One of the dictionary definitions of the word well is an adjective meaning “in good health,” especially in reference to people when free of illness or injury.

  34. HC Alexander says:

    So I guess saying to someone “You done good” don’t work well?

  35. S Shah says:

    I feel well. Here well answers the question “How do you feel” and yet in the explanations it mentions that well is an adjective. Is well not an adverb adding to the verb well? how can we conclude that it is an adjective.

    • In the sentence “I feel well,” the word well is an adjective describing the word I. One of the dictionary definitions of the word well is an adjective meaning “in good health,” especially in reference to people when free of illness or injury.

  36. Catherine H says:

    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.

  37. Carmelita M says:

    which is right –
    Do you hear me? or Do you hear me good? or Do you hear me well?
    Can you hear me? or Can you hear me good? or Can you hear me well?
    thank you.

    • “Do you hear me?” and “Can you hear me?” are both grammatically correct. You could also say, “Do you hear me well?” or “Can you hear me well?” under certain circumstances, such as testing the clarity of the sound of a device.

  38. Phong Nguyen says:

    Do I can Said ‘very good?”
    when I been from school study ESOL, my Teacher said can not said “very good”, “very Well”
    Can you guy explain it for me?
    Thank You.

    • The adverb “very” does not affect whether to use “good” or “well.” The following sentences are similar to the examples in our blog:
      You did a very good job.
      You did the job very well.
      I do not feel very well.

  39. Connie says:

    I’m trying to be a good example for my 3 year old son, and this clarified things a little beyond the regular adverb/adjective explanation. Thank you!

  40. AJ Ruiz says:

    Can you tell me if well or good should be used after the word determining, in the following sentence:

    Monitoring wells at the site are a critical component of determining how well the treatment process is working to clear contaminated water of perchloroethylene (PCE).

  41. star says:

    Is it ok to say “peter plays tennis as well as Joe”

  42. Me says:

    My friend insists that “We did good”. I keep telling him that “We did well,” but he refuses to believe me. I am correct, am I not?

  43. sonu says:

    I have a doubt in last question
    4. Those glasses look good on you.
    I think it should be ‘well’ instead of ‘good’ because here we are describing how glasses is looking on u not about the glasses . please make it clear to me …

  44. Donna says:

    Which is correct. I hope the interviews go well. or I hope the interviews go good?

  45. Ingrid says:

    Can you say:
    You make me feel so well?

  46. salina says:

    Q: what’s wrong with you?(mother hugging her little daughter.)

    A: (daughter answers>
    a. I’m having a headache.
    b. I don’t feel fine.

    What is the correct answer? a or b ???

  47. Liana says:

    This website was great for a school project I am doing! This website is very ‘good!’

  48. Earl says:

    Alright. Which is best:

    I want to eat good during my stay.

    Or

    I want to eat well during my stay.

    ??

  49. Sam says:

    I am writing an email and I’m not sure if it is-

    I hope you and your family are doing good

    Or

    I hope you and your family are doing well

  50. ToloBG says:

    I am curious about the hearing sense. You said that hearing is always used actively. So let’s say I bring my dog to the vet and the Doctor says “he sounds well.” In this instance (assuming the verb sound is connected to the hearing sense) wouldn’t that mean he sounds healthy? In which case the verb is not being used actively and the Vet is describing his state of health. However in another scenario let’s say that my dog sounds out words because he’s a talking dog (hypothetically lol). In this situation I could say “he sounds well” describing the action of performing a sound in which case, “sound” is being used actively. In any event I just want to know if the hearing sense can also be used interchangeably depending on the situation.

  51. Cyborg1939 says:

    Q: Does one throw a ball GOOD or WELL?

    Thank you… Cyborg1939

  52. Newt says:

    Never!!!!!!! End a sentence with good!!!!!!
    Sorry, you left that out.

  53. Alech says:

    Is it ok to use this “sleep well”?

  54. Judy Wagner says:

    Hello.
    On a website our business uses, the message to clients they recommend our using states:

    I have a quick favor to ask of you. If you think I’ve done good work for you, please consider writing me a recommendation.

    “…Done good work”does not sound right to me. Would there be a better way to word that?
    Thanks so much.
    Judy

    • The message is grammatically correct, however, in formal writing we recommend avoiding the use of contractions. Therefore, writing “I have done” would be better. The phrase could also be written “If you think I have done a good job for you…”

  55. Kathy Frederick says:

    Thank you for clearing up the good v. well as it concerns health. A friend from grade school (it’s been 50 years, OMG!) insisted “I feel good” would be the correct response. She cited the lesson about senses. Since my memory is no longer reliable, I could not defend my position. So, as it turns out, we could both be right, depending on the intent of the question. I will definitely be citing your lesson here during our next conversation! KF

  56. Evgenia says:

    And if I’m asked ‘How’s your English?’ meaning how I’m getting on with it can I answer ‘Good’ or should I say ‘Well’?

  57. RDZ says:

    I cannot get this clear in my head. I struggle every time it comes up and I think you may be the person to help. I am a medical and legal transcriptionist. The doctor is stating the patient’s/client’s answers to his/her questions, but they are not actual quoted replies. How should the following sentences (a reply to and the question asked) be worded?

    He gets along good with his family and friends
    He thinks he gets along good with others.
    He thinks his friendships/relationships are good.

    I know good should not be placed at the end of a sentence, so it brings me back to rewording the sentence (of which I have the liberty), and questioning if I should use well or good.

    Thank you, very much, in advance, for your help. RDZ

    • There is no rule that prohibits good at the end of a sentence.
      He gets along well with his family and friends.
      He thinks he gets along well with others.
      He thinks his friendships/relationships are good.

  58. puno pitanja says:

    Is it possible to say : to do somebody (a world of) good?
    Are the following sentences correct and the same as the one above:
    to mean well to somebody / to mean good for somebody
    to want somebody’s own good or to wish somebody good?

    • The idiom do somebody a world of good means “do something to help someone or make someone feel better.” It is correct to say that something or someone did or will do someone a world of good.
      To mean well means “to have good intentions but not always the ability to carry them out.” It is not common to follow the phrase with the word somebody. Most likely you would just say “He means well” or “He meant well.”
      The phrase for someone’s own good means “done for the benefit of oneself.” It is not common to say that you “want somebody’s own good.”
      It is grammatically correct to say you wish someone well.
      Examples:
      A vacation will do her a world of good.
      He meant well, but his directions caused us to get lost.
      We know you don’t want to take this medication, but it is for your own good.
      I wish you well.

  59. Diego says:

    Hello. Congratulations on this great webpage.

    I’m having some trouble correctly identifying linking verbs. For example, in the sentence “She writes well.”, why isn’t ‘writes’ working as a linking verb? Isn’t it linking the subject ‘She’ with the quality of good writing? According to this reasoning, the grammatically correct way of stating it should be “She writes good.”.

    I know that argument is not correct, but I can’t see the flaw. Thank you very much in advance. Happy New Year!

    • Verbs can either be linking verbs or action verbs. A linking verb does not express action. The verb writes is an action verb, not a linking verb. Well is an adverb describing how she writes.

  60. Kelly says:

    This is a really GOOD discussion about the uses of “well” vs. “good”! Thank you very much! While I knew that the verb ‘to be’ and the linking verbs should be followed by adjectives instead of adverbs (when the intention is to describe the subject), now I finally understand why “I am well” is correct. I did not know that “well” is an adjective as well as an adverb. Thanks for clearing that up. It would be great to see this subject and all these tips collected together in a new blog post/newsletter article. There seems to be endless need for review of this difficult grammatical subject. What a great way to start off the new year: to be well AND be good!

  61. Joe Charlie says:

    I am preparing for my 9th Grade Lit Grammer Quiz, and Good and Well is a topic on the quiz. Thank you so much because this was very helpful!!

  62. Raman says:

    I now am clear about the correct use of good and well. But I’m confused about the below sentences.
    Opt 1: John and Maria have completed the graduation.
    Opt 2: John and Maria has completed the graduation.

    Which one is correct ? Please help me out !
    Thanks in advance.

    • The two subjects, John and Maria, require the plural form have. Your sentence Option 1 is awkward but grammatically correct. Perhaps you mean John and Maria have completed the graduation requirements.

  63. Mike Johnson says:

    Thank you for this article and all the comments.
    I came looking for the different between good and well to the answer to the question “how are you?” Some people always answer “good” and some always answer “well.”

    Person 1: “How are you?”
    Person 2: “Well, and you?”
    Person 1: “Good”

    I was wondering if this might be a regional preference. I think that most don’t think in terms of whether it is physical or emotional, but that made a lot of sense. I think it is more habit. But, I am glad to know that there is a distinction.

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