- I just finished a good book.
- I am good.
- I am well.
- The cake is good.
- The candy tastes good.
- I did well on the test.
- She is a good tennis player.
- She plays tennis well.
- I feel well.
All of the above sentences are correct in their use of well and good. The main difference between the words is that good is an adjective (and they generally describe nouns), and well is an adverb (and they usually describe verbs, or sometimes adjectives or other adverbs).
Here is why all the above sentences are correct.
- Good book. Good is an adjective in its usual place, right before the noun it modifies.
- I am good. If you have a “linking” verb, which is a verb that connects the word before it with the word after it (it serves as an equal sign), you use an adjective after it, not an adverb. Good doesn’t describe am; it describes I (I = good). The most common linking verb is the “to be” verb; some of its common forms are am, are, is, were, was, have been, will be. But the “to be” verb must be the only verb. If you say, “He was walking,” walking is the verb, not was. (Was is an “auxiliary,” or “helping,” verb here). Compare a linking verb to an action verb: I read a book. Read is not connecting I and book (I do not equal a book). I read well. Here, well is describing how you read, so you use an adverb.
- I am well. Hmmm….so if #2 is correct (I am good), how is I am well also correct? If you say, “I am good,” it is often in reference to how you feel. The explanation for why you use good in the sentence is in #2. However, well is acceptable after the “to be” verb if it refers to a state of health. So, they are both correct.
- The cake is good. Here is another example of using the adjective after the “to be” verb.
- The candy tastes good. You would never say, “The candy tastes well.” In addition to “to be,” the sense verbs are also sometimes linking verbs: look, smell, taste, feel, sound. See the comparison of these verbs as linking verbs and action verbs after #9 below.
- I did well on the test. Well is an adverb describing how I did (action verb did.)
- Good tennis player. Good is an adjective modifying tennis player after the linking verb is.
- She plays tennis well. Well is an adverb describing the action verb plays. How does she play?
- I feel well. This is pretty much the same as I am well. Feel is a linking verb because it is a sense verb here. However, well means a state of health here, so it is fine to use, even though it is generally thought of as an adverb. Here is a really an adjective. (Note that well can also be a noun – Timmy fell into the well – and even an interjection – Well! What have we here?
Comparison of action verbs and linking (sense) verbs:
- I am looking at the cake vs. The cake looks good.
- I smell smoke vs. The brownies smell good.
- I taste the salt in the chocolate vs. The chocolate tastes good.
- I feel my cat’s soft fur vs. The breeze feels good.
- I sound the whistle to get their attention vs. That music sounds loud.
Grammar Diva News
Does Your Flamingo Flamenco? will be available on Amazon (and soon everywhere else) in a couple of days.
I will be selling my books and giving readings and grammar tips at the Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa, CA on August 5, 11, and 13 from about 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. I will be part of the Redwood Writers tables inside the EC Kraft Building. All my books will be for sale, including a special back-to-school (or college or new job) package including the above three books at a special price: the grammar book, the grammar workbook, and the book of confusing words. If you are local, I hope to see you there. There will be many great authors and books for sale! (Well, the authors won’t be for sale, but the books will be!)