When to Use Good vs. Well

Good vs. Well: as small and simple as they might seem, these two words can confuse writers. Knowing which word to use in a sentence often poses a challenge.

Remembering Parts of Speech

The key thing to know is that good is an adjective while well is an adverb. That means that you should use good to modify a noun, whereas well modifies a verb. So:

  • A person, place, thing, or idea might be
  • An action might go

When you write a sentence and must decide whether to use good or well, determine if you are modifying a noun or a verb.

Related: What is a conjunctive verb?

When to Use Well

Here are some samples for modifying verbs:

Incorrect: We did good in the trivia contest.

Correct: We did well in the trivia contest.

Incorrect: I feel like that even went good.

Correct: I feel like that even went well.

In these examples, we are modifying verbs: did and went. As such, we need to use well as the modifier.

Related: Learn about modifiers. 

When to Use Good

Here are some examples for modifying nouns:

Incorrect: Have a well day!

Correct: Have a good day!

In the examples above, we are modifying day, which is a noun. Consequently, we use the adjective good to modify it.

Goof vs. Well: Good is an adjective while Well is an adverb

The Nonaction Exception

There are some exceptions to the adjective/adverb rule. One involves nonaction verbs. These include:

  • To be
  • To feel
  • To look
  • To seem

You can use the adjective modifier good. For example:

Example: I hope your vacation is good.

Example: This essay seems good.

The Health Exception

To complicate things, there is an exception to the nonaction verb exception. It involves health or wellbeing. When describing a person’s health and using a nonaction verb, you would default to well instead of good.

Incorrect: Eleanor was sick last week, but now she is good.

Correct: Eleanor was sick last week, but now she is well.

The examples above show how inference plays a role in the correct work. The expression be good implies behavior. Be well means physical and emotional wellbeing.

Sensory Verbs Exception

Finally, if you use a linking verb connected to one of the five senses, you would use the adjective good. Sensory verbs point to further information about the subject, not an action involving an object. They include:

  • To appear
  • To feel
  • To look
  • To seem
  • To smell
  • To sound
  • To taste

Here are several examples of the correct use of good with a sensory verb:

Example: The fresh-baked banana bread smelled good.

Example: The orchestra sounds good tonight.

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