Good vs. Well–How Should I Use Them?

A common English error is to misuse the words good and well. The rule of thumb is that good is an adjective and well is an adverb. Good modifies a noun; something can be or seem good. Well modifies a verb; an action can be done well. However, when you’re talking about health, well can be used as an adjective.

All you need to remember when you are pondering whether good or well is best for your sentence is that good modifies a person, place, or thing, whereas well modifies an action.

Did you do good on your exams?

Did you do well on your exams?

I can’t believe it! I did good on the test.

I can’t believe it! I did well on the test.

Here, we have a clear action verb: to do. Do should be modified with well, not good.

This is well lasagna!

This is good lasagna!

Lasagna is a noun—a thing—that should be modified with good. Nonaction verbs, like to be, to look, to seem, and to feel can also take good, the adjectival form.

Today, at last, life is good .

An Exception to the Well/Good Rule: Health and Wellbeing

When we refer to a person’s health or wellbeing, well is customarily used as an adjective.

She asked about David’s illness, and I told her he is good now.

She asked about David’s illness, and I told her he is well now.

When you tell someone “Be good!” you are talking about the behavior of that person. However, to say, “Be well!” is to express a wish for their good health.

Weekly Grammar Tips
Weekly Grammar Tips
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