When to Use Well and Good

Good and Well

Not all Good

All well and good? Well, perhaps not all of President Trump’s tweets include good grammar,

Let’s take a look at these two troublesome words, good and well, and provide some clarity about the meaning and usage of these oft-confused words.

Understanding the roles of two parts of speech are helpful in this regard. The word, good, is an adjective; well is an adverb. Both of these parts of speech modify other parts of speech. Modify is an important academic language termwhich means “to define, identify, describe, to expand, or to limit.”

Two Parts of Speech

To review, an adjective modifies a noun with Which One, How Many, or What Kind. Examples: that bird, few students, dark chocolate

Note that, in English, we place adjectives before nouns. Use of more than one adjective usually follows the Which One, How Many, or What Kind adjective order.

An adverb modifies an adjective, adverb, or verb with What Degree, How, Where, or When. Examples: less, carefully, there, later

Note that, in English, we place adverbs in different places within sentences for emphasis. Use of more than one adverb usually follows the What Degree, How, Where, or When adverb order.

Practice memorizing these parts of speech descriptions in the Parts of Speech Song.

Good as an Adjective

The word, good, modifies a noun and answers what kind. Example: Ms. Samuels is a good teacher. Explanation: What kind of teacher is Ms. Samuels? A good one. Notice that good can also modify the pronoun, one.

Well as an Adverb

The word, well, modifies an adjective or verb and answers how.

Example #1 (modifying an adjective): The well-chosen lyrics fit the song perfectly. Explanation: “Chosen” is an adjective, answering what kind or, perhaps, which ones, and the adverb, “well,” answers how the lyrics were chosen.

Example #2 (modifying a verb): The students speak well of their principal. Explanation: The students speak how about their principal? They speak well.

Good and Well in Predicate Adjectives

A predicate adjective follows a linking verb and refers back to a preceding noun to modify the noun. One type of linking verb is a “to be” verb: is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been. Example: The school librarians were helpful. Explanation: The predicate adjective, “helpful,” follows the linking verb, “were” and modifies the noun, “librarians.” Example: The school librarians were extremely helpful. Explanation: The adverb, “extremely,” modifies the linking verb, “were,” and is part of the predicate adjective phrase, “extremely helpful.”

Other types of linking verbs use the five senses: look, sound, smell, feel, and taste. A few more linking verbs are used frequently: appear, seem, become, grow, turn, prove, and remain.

With these linking verbs, use good as a predicate adjective when stating a sensory action. Examples: Bob and Joanne look good; their voices sound good; they smell good; they feel good; and their desserts taste good.

Use good as a predicate adjective when describing someone’s emotions.

Examples: “The situation,” she explained, “did not seem good to me.”

“I never felt good about it either,” added her friend.

Use good as a predicate adjective when describing someone’s character. Examples: The woman is kind, good, and trustworthy.

Use well as a predicate adjective when referring to health. Note that grammarians would still classify well as an adverb, serving as a predicate adjective.

Examples: Suzanne asked,How are you, John?

“I am well,” he replied.

“You do look well,” she commented. “I feel well, too.”

Use well to mean broadly or fully when it is listed first in a predicate adjective phrase. Note that no hyphen is used after the noun to which the predicate adjective phrase refers.

Examples: The celebrity was well known and always well mannered with his adoring fans.

Good and Well as Expletives

Expletives are not just swear words. Expletives are extraneous words or phrases which are not part of the semantic (meaning) structure of a sentence. For example, “There” followed by a verb is usually an expletive, unless used to indicate where. Both good and well can serve as expletives. Examples: “Good. That’s what I want to hear,” he said. “Well, I mean that’s what I need to hear,” he clarified. Explanation: Both “Good” and “Well” add no meaning to the sentences.

Good and Well as Nouns

In addition to their use as expletives, adjectives, and adverbs, both good and well can serve as common nouns. Philosophers have used good as a noun to mean “that which is valued.” Example: The wise always seek the ultimate good in others. To be charitable, perhaps President Trump was using good in this sense in some lines of his criticism of the news media (see graphic at beginning of article). Anyone living in a rural area will be familiar with a water well; Texans know all about oil wells; and the holes at the top of old school desks? Those are ink wells.


Syntax Programs

Pennington Publishing Grammar Programs

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