Remembering your high school days and your English class can bring back memories of lots of grammar rules, but did you ever find out when to use good and when to use well in a sentence. While every English teacher endeavors to teach us how to speak correctly and how to write correctly, many fail to address some of the common mistakes that people make when talking or writing. One such mistake is found between the words good and well. Under what circumstances do you use good and which ones do you use well. Let’s look at technical English structure and find out when to use good and when to use well.
Everyone probably remembers that speech and sentences are formed from nouns, verbs and objects. Other parts of a sentences structure modify its meaning and makes it easier to communicate information. Adverbs, predicate adjectives, linking verbs and action verbs allow the user to modify sentence meaning and to add information.
A quick review of verbs is important at this point. Verbs can be either linking verbs or action verbs. The action verbs are just that; they describe an action, such as swim, run, talk or any number of other activities. Linking verbs, however, are used to link nouns and objects. They are used to describe states of being, like the verb to be, or to describe senses, like to feel. The sentence “I feel sad,” and “He is fast” both are sentences that use a linking verb.
Adverbs modify verbs and adjectives modify nouns or pronouns. Grammatically, predicate adjectives are used after linking verbs and refer back to the noun or pronoun of the sentence. Well and good normally serve as adverbs and adjectives, respectively. The trick in understanding when to use good and when to use well is to realize that while good is an adjective, it can also serve to modify the linking verb as a predicate adjective. A predicate adjective always follows a linking verb and serves to modify the noun or pronoun of the sentence.
The best rule of thumb is that you should say well if the verb in your sentence is not a linking verb. When you are using a linking verb, you should use good, provided you are referring to the noun or pronoun that precedes the verb. The only snag comes when you are using one of the sense verbs because they can be used as both action verbs and linking verbs.
Here is a tip that can help you decide if the verb is being used as a linking or action verb. If you can replace the current verb of the sentence with the verb “is” and the sentence still makes sense, then the original verb is acting as a linking verb. In that case, use good after the verb when modifying the noun or pronoun of the sentence.
While good can be used as an adjective and a predicate adjective, well can be used as an adverb and as a predicate adjective. This makes the clear-cut rules a bit less clear. However, remember that well can also be defined as healthy. When using it in this manner, then you should say well instead of good.
The final rule is that you should never use the word good as an adverb. As an adverb, well is the correct choice. Now, do you realize that those classes in English actually did have a useful purpose? Don’t ever be embarrassed again. It may not flow off your tongue as easily when you have to think about it first, but you will also never sound like you don’t know how to speak correctly. Now, you know when to use good and when to use well.