BE SMART

When To Use “Well” Versus “Good”

We all know that the English language is finicky. Some things about it simply don’t make sense–especially when you compare it to the other languages of the world. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t master it (or at least get a little better every day). With that being said, I’m here to tackle one of the most confusing debacles in the book: when to use well vs good.

It all starts with a simple question. Someone asks, “How are you?” or “How’s it going?” and you spiral into a complete vortex of grammar doom. Do you say good? Or is it well? You begin to wonder if there’s really any difference at all. To save you from your next grammar blunder, here are the simple rules for discerning when to use well vs good in conversation. Because speaking well is a good habit to have.

 

The General Consensus

The first things to keep in mind are the parts of speech. Good is an adjective, meaning it describes a noun. Well is an adverb, meaning it describes a verb. Sometimes, though–and this is where it can confuse people–well can also be used as an adjective when it comes to talking about health. Let’s look at some examples, shall we?

Using Well and Good in Sentences

You are a good runner.

You ran very well.

I don’t feel well.

As you can see, good describes the runner. In the second example, well is describing HOW the runner ran. A good rule of thumb is to remember that well answers the question how. Lastly, since the third example is referring to health, we used well. 

 

Speaking About Senses & Using Well Vs Good

Another rule to remember pertains to when you are using senses. You need to discern whether or not the verbs look, feel, taste, and smell are being used actively or not. Hear is always active. If the verb is being used actively, then you use well because it’s answering that question of how and describing the active verb. On the contrary, if the verb is not being used actively, you’ll stick with good ole’ good. 

Examples

I can hear well.

Hear is always active.

You look good for someone who just got hit by a truck.

Look is not referring to the physical process of seeing with your eyes.

I can smell well even though I just broke my nose.

Well is describing how I smell.

You don’t smell good today. You smell like horse manure.

– We’re not describing how you actively sniff with your nose, we’re describing you and how bad you smell.

 

Describing Emotional Well-Being & Health

One last rule for you guys to remember. Are you still with me? Having fun? No and no? Great! This last rule focuses on when you are either talking about someone’s emotional well-being or their health. You always use well when speaking about health, and you used good when talking about their emotional well-being. Here are your last examples… Come on, it’s the home stretch!

So… How are you?

Ex. 1 – if you want to refer to your actual health.

I am well; I finally got over my cold!

Ex. 2 – if you want to talk about your overall well-being.

I’m good, thanks for asking!

 

Now you know when to use well vs good!

That wasn’t so hard, was it? Who else gets tripped up on this tricky grammar detail? Did you find this post helpful? Let me know in the comments!

well vs good

 

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Join the discussion

  1. Ana De- Jesus

    That was a great grammar/word lesson sometimes it can be hard for some to make the distinction. This reminds me of my uni days!

  2. karen

    Love this post – because I am always intrigued with differentiating between some super common words we use all the time! Now I’m going to be super tuned in when I hear people say either word!

    • Alyssa Ruane

      Funny enough, ever since I wrote it, I am definitely more careful about my speech and have been much more attuned to others’ usages! Lol, hope I didn’t create too many grammar nazis 😉

  3. Jena Proctor

    As a former teacher, thank you! It can be easily learned, yet people don’t take the time to pay attention to their choice of words much anymore.

  4. Terri Steffes

    You did a good job of teaching something that a lot of people do not do well. How did I do, teacher?

  5. Debra

    This was great! Everyone needs to hear this lesson and other common English language problems!

    • Alyssa Ruane

      It’s so simple but makes a big difference! And don’t worry, I’ll sprinkle in more lessons here and there. Stay tuned 😉

  6. OurFamilyWorld

    This confuses a lot of people, especially me who is not a native speaker. Thank you for explaining this.

  7. Karina Pacheco

    The English grammar can be very hard and it’s always nice to get a refresher! Sometimes I need it 🙂

    • Alyssa Ruane

      No shame there! I’m a professional writer and sometimes even I get tripped up on finicky grammar stuff! Sometimes my brain just short circuits.

  8. Sarah

    This is definitely one that is easy to mix up, but you have broken it down quite nicely.

  9. Kim

    I’m forwarding this to my friend! Thank you for clearing this up for people! Google needs to send everyone to your page.

  10. Amanda Love

    I really appreciate posts like this because you get to understand our language more. I am not sure when was the last time that I’ve interchanged the two!

  11. Krystel @ Planning The Magic

    This is so interesting, love reading. I just purchased and started looking through a book about things like this. Makes you rethink your college degree haha

  12. Kendall Rayburn

    Love this post! It’s always nice to have a little grammar refresher! Especially if you’re a writer or blogger!

  13. Jeanine

    This is really great, and a good reminder. It’s a mix up lots make but so easily avoidable! Thanks for the reminder.

  14. Brittany

    I mix these two words up all the time! I used to have my mom there to correct me, but now I guess I need to figure it out 🙂

  15. Dana Vento

    English grammar was hard for me on writing. Thanks for this information I will keep this in my mind

  16. Taylor MObely

    I minored in english in college! I love this post! It brings back really awesome memories of analyzing papers and grading other kids papers 🙂

  17. Heather

    Oh goodness, this is definitely a pet peeve of my brother’s. Always correcting everyone!

  18. Jessica

    This is a pet-peeve of mine! I loved English and grammar in school, so this is right up my alley. Thank you so much for sharing!!!

  19. Eva / Kid Minds

    I would be honest I have never given well Vs good a minute of thought. Such a great lesson though! I will pay more attention to it now.

  20. Kiwi

    Funny you are taught these in school but many adults still have trouble with the difference. Great breakdown on how to use these terms correctly.

  21. CourtneyLynne

    Omg I’m horrible with this type of stuff!!! When I was younger I thought it was funny that I lacked simple English skills, but these days I’m definitely trying to not be the idiot using wrong words!

  22. Amanda

    Loved this post! So many adults these days have trouble with grammar (myself included). I definitely found this to be very informative and interesting – thanks for sharing!

  23. Rachel Catherine

    Grammar is one of those things that seems to be dying, along with punctuation. This is a great post to remind people. It drives me nuts when I see people typing things on facebook like “advise” when they really mean “advice.”

  24. HilLesha

    English wasn’t my favorite subject in school, but I’ve grown to appreciate it better it over the years. It’s essential, especially if you’re a blogger! Posts like these are always a good reminder on how we should choose our words more carefully. 🙂

  25. Toughcookiemommy

    I’m a literacy teacher so I’m a stickler for using good grammar. This is so important to remind others of, especially during these times on social media where nobody seems to use good spelling and grammar.

  26. Pam

    Well vs good is definitely a tricky one! It’s one of those that I have to think hard about how I use them sometimes.

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