Should I Use Good or Well?

Good and well are often mixed up by both native and non-native speakers. Have you ever been corrected when someone asks “How are you?” and you reply “Good!”, and then they say “Don’t you mean well?”  This post will explore the difference between the words and when to properly use each word.

greeting
“Hello, how are you?” Good or well?

In short, the difference is that well describes how someone does something, whereas good is a word that describes a noun. Good is an adjective and well is an adverb. For example:  I had a good time last night, everything went well. Both words have a similar meaning of a positive description of something or someone. Since good is an adjective, be sure there is a noun nearby for good to describe. For example, “That is a good dog!” Good also has comparative and superlative forms, better and best.  Well, being an adverb, is used to describe a verb, an adjective, another adverb or a sentence in general. Well also shows degree by being an adverb. There is no comparative or superlative form, since it is an adverb. Understanding that good and well are simply two different types of words makes it easier to understand why they are not interchangeable, yet have similar meanings, especially in informal speech.

It is important for English learners to understand that many people, including many native speakers, incorrectly use good when they mean well.  Although I never encourage bad English habits, the reality is that it happens all the time in everyday speech. “Good” is usually an acceptable answer for “How are you doing?”, even though technically it is grammatically incorrect. It may have something to do with language learning as children, good is a concept and word commonly learned long before well. The habit of using it as a positive descriptor for all situations sticks and sounds more informal and easy to native speakers. That is why people rarely if ever use well when they mean good.

Learn this:  The expression “It’s all good” is slang for everything is fine or ok. It can also mean that someone has a situation under control, and they know what they are doing.

Father:”Did you get your homework done?”

Son: “Nope, but it’s all good, I’ll do it later”

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