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Good and Well

Commonly Confused Words

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Good and Well

I Feel Good: the title of James Brown's memoir, based on his popular song "I Got You (I Feel Good)." In this expression, good is a predicate adjective.

Good is usually an adjective (a good book, a good job). Good can also function as a noun (the common good).

Well is usually an adverb (runs well, a well-written essay).

In formal speech and writing, the adjective good generally follows linking verbs such as be, seem, taste, and appear. See the usage notes below.


Examples:

  • "There was never a good war or a bad peace." (Benjamin Franklin)

  • Experiment with recipes until you find what tastes good to you.

  • The student officers displayed a remarkably good knowledge of the drill regulations.

  • Coffee thrives remarkably well in Fiji.

  • The students were asked to compose a well-organized essay in 30 minutes.

Usage Notes:

  • "good/well
    Of the two phrases 'I feel good' and 'I feel well,' the first is the correct one if you're speaking of your state of health (physical or mental). 'Feel' here is a 'linking verb' and is followed by a predicate adjective. So if you mean that your health is good, your spirits are high, and your outlook is optimistic, say 'I feel good.'

    "On the other hand, if you use 'feel' in its literal sense of touching something, like feeling for a light switch in the dark, say, 'I feel well.'"
    (William and Mary Morris, Harper Dictionary of Contemporary Usage. Harper & Row, 1975)

  • "Today virtually everybody agrees that both good and well after feel and look are predicate adjectives. The years of disagreement over which was correct seem to have contributed to some differentiation. Look well and feel well tend to express good health. Feel good can express good health or it can suggest good spirits in addition to good health. Look good does not generally refer to health, it relates to some aspect of appearance."
    (Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage, 1994)

Practice:

(a) A logical fallacy is a bad argument that looks _____.

(b) The plants were all fairly large, with _____-developed leaves.

(c) After a long week in the office, a day on the ocean sounded _____.

(d) The chorus sang _____, with enthusiasm and expression.

Answers to Practice Exercises

Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words

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