Bad vs. Badly



The word bad is an adjective used to modify nouns and pronouns.
Example: She was in a bad accident.

Adverbs often end in ly. The word badly is an adverb that answers how about the verb.
Example: She was hurt badly in the accident.

The confusion comes with four of the sense verbs: taste, look, smell, and feel.
When we use these verbs actively, we should follow them with adverbs. (Hear is always used actively.)
When we use these verbs descriptively, we should follow them with adjectives.
Examples:
I feel bad about having said that.
I am not feeling with fingers in the above example; I am describing my state of mind, so the adjective is used (no ly).

She feels badly since her fingers were burned.
She feels with her fingers here so the adverb (ly form) is used.

You can use this same rule about sense verbs with adjectives and adverbs other than bad and badly.
Examples:
The mask over his face made him look suspicious to the police.
He did not look with eyes. Look describes his appearance so the adjective is needed.

She looked suspiciously at the $100 bill.
She looked with eyes so the adverb is needed.

She looked good for someone who never exercised.
She didn’t look with eyes. Good is describing her appearance so the adjective is needed.

He smelled well for someone with a cold.
He is actively smelling with his nose so the adverb is needed.

Rule: Well, although more often an adverb, functions as an adjective when referring to health.
Example: He doesn’t feel well enough today to come to work.

 

Pop Quiz

1. Please don’t feel bad/badly about forgetting to call me.

2. His face looked bad/badly bruised after being punched.

3. She looked cautious/cautiously at the man ahead of her.

4. She feels cautious/cautiously when walking alone at night.

5. She smelled good/well after spraying perfume on her neck.

6. If you feel good/well enough on Saturday, we hope you will join us for dinner.

 

 

Pop Quiz Answers

1. Please don’t feel bad about forgetting to call me.

2. His face looked badly bruised after being punched.

3. She looked cautiously at the man ahead of her.

4. She feels cautious when walking alone at night.

5. She smelled good after spraying perfume on her neck.

6. If you feel well enough on Saturday, we hope you will join us for dinner.

Posted on Tuesday, September 24, 2019, at 11:00 pm

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5 Comments on Bad vs. Badly

5 responses to “Bad vs. Badly

  1. Vicki says:

    I am not sure I understand the explanation for the example: She feels badly since her fingers were burned. She feels with her fingers here so the adverb (ly form) is used.

    She was not ‘feeling with her fingers’ in this instance. And if she was, would we really say she “feels badly”? Just an observation. From my perspective, that doesn’t make sense.

    • This sentence refers to one of the five senses rather than a description of her state of mind (feeling bad). It means that her sense of touch has been affected by the burn. That is why the adverb badly is used. Admittedly, this might sound a bit odd in conversation, but we included it to demonstrate a situation where “feel badly” is grammatically correct.

  2. CW says:

    Another set of angles:

    I feel good = I am a good person
    I feel good about this = I have a good feeling about it
    I feel well = I am in a healthy state or I have sensitive fingers
    Thus, she looked well for someone who didn’t exercise
    Or, she looked good for someone who didn’t use make up
    I ate a goodly amount = large portion
    I feel bad = I am a bad person
    I feel badly = I have clumsy fingers
    Good is as good does

    He looked suspicious to the police = They inferred that he was up to no good (or to no well. LOL.)
    He looked suspicious to the police = They inferred that he was paranoid about something, perhaps them.

  3. Janice H. says:

    I loved your newsletter today on “Bad vs. Badly.” I have had quite a number of pitched (verbal) battles with friends and students about “feel bad” vs. “feel badly.” I know educated people who have no difficulty in saying “I feel good about that,” but they are very uncomfortable saying “I feel bad about that.” I have wondered sometimes whether the problem might be psychological rather than grammatical. The word “bad” can mean “evil” or “wicked” and perhaps people are uncomfortable saying something about themselves that could have an undercurrent of those other meanings. Just a thought.

    Have a good day and continue to send your interesting articles.

    • CW says:

      re: I feel bad. I agree that the word “bad” has at least two common meanings that can be confused.
      I feel bad about it….might mean that one feels morally bad or it might mean that one feels regretful.

      The same distinction mutatis mutandis applies to “good,” but is almost always used to mean that one has a good feeling about something….sometimes with a prophetic connotation….I have a good feeling that this will work out.

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