- Good is typically used to describe nouns.
- ○ This is good pizza. I can’t believe it’s homemade.
- Well usually modifies verbs.
- ○ Luis played well. He scored 20 points.
- However, there are a few exceptions to these rules.
You might have heard this once or twice: Superman does good. You’re doing well. Is it always wrong to use good when someone asks how you’re doing? Below, we’ll examine the rules behind these words and go over the exceptions.
When To Use “Good”
Good has multiple functions, but it is primarily used as an adjective, meaning it’s a word that modifies nouns (a person, place, thing, or idea).
Wow, this is a good book.
In this sentence, good is modifying the noun book.
That was a good performance.
That was a
In the example above, performance is a noun, and therefore it’s modified by the word good.
However, there are instances where good can modify non-action verbs like (to) be.
Raquel called and asked if the girls are being good.
When To Use “Well”
Well also has multiple functions, but it is mainly used as an adverb—words that modify adjectives or verbs. Specifically, well modifies action verbs.
Let’s explore the previous example sentence: You wouldn’t say, “Raquel called and asked if the girls are being well.” The correct version of this sentence using the word well would be:
Raquel called and asked if the girls are doing well.
In this sentence, doing is the action verb. However, this changes the meaning of the sentence, as being good and doing well mean different things.
Tiffany sang well in the performance.
good in the performance.
Because sang is an action verb, it gets modified by the word well.
Exceptions to Using “Good” and “Well”
Like most English language rules, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, when you are referring to someone’s health, well can be used as an adjective.
I asked for a deadline extension because I was not well.
When talking about health, think of well as equating to healthy.
Another exception is that you can use good to modify linking verbs like feel, seem, and look. Think of James Brown when he sang “I Feel Good.” Here, he is not implying that he’s feeling healthy, but instead that he is feeling lively and that he is in good spirits.
So, it’s not technically wrong to say “I am good” when someone asks you how you are doing. But, if you want to be as grammatically correct as possible, you should follow the rule of thumb: use good to modify nouns and well to modify verbs.
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