23 November, 2018
Here at VOA, I am a teacher. But outside of work, I am a language learner, too. Having studied three languages, I know that sometimes the simplest words can be the most elusive.
Today our question comes from a reader named Valentina. Here it is:
Hello! I would like to know when to use "well" or "good." – Valentina
Hi, Valentina. I hope you're doing well. Today is a good day to learn English!
I wonder if you followed how I used the words "well" and "good." In the first sentence, "well" describes the verb "doing." In the second, "good" describes the noun "day."
"Well" is an adverb. Like many adverbs, "well" describes the way that something is done. "Well" answers the question "how?"
"Good" is an adjective. We use it to describe nouns.
So we can say, "Valentina is a good singer." We used "good" to describe the "singer." And we can say, "Valentina sings well." We used "well" to describe how Valentina sings.
This sounds simple, right? But there are a few rules that do not follow this formula:
Rule #1: Use good for the five senses – sight, taste, smell, touch and sound. Listen to a few examples:
The holiday meal tasted so good.
What is that perfume? It smells good.
This bed feels good. It is so soft!
Sense verbs are linking verbs. We use "good" with other linking verbs, such as "seem" and "appear."
Rule #2: To talk about physical health, use "well." Let's hear examples:
I do not feel well. I think I should see a doctor.
You don't look well. How are you feeling?
Rule #3: To talk about an emotional state, use "good."
I felt good when I finally completed the program!
He feels good about helping his mother.
How are you?
So, how do you answer the common question "How are you?" In American spoken English, we usually answer, "I'm good" or just "Good!" But if you would like to be a little more formal, you can say, "I'm well" or "I'm doing well."
Lastly, the comparative and superlative words for "well" and "good" are "better" and "best."
And that's Ask a Teacher.
I'm Alice Bryant.
Do you have a question for Ask a Teacher? Write to us in the comments area. And, be sure to tell us what country you are from.
You can also make sentences with "well" and "good" in the comments area.
Words in This Story
elusive – adj. hard to understand, define or remember
formula – n. a plan or method for doing, making, or achieving something
perfume – n. a liquid substance that you put on your body in small amounts in order to smell pleasant
formal – adj. suitable for serious or official speech and writing
superlative – adj. of or relating to the form of an adjective or adverb that is used to indicate the greatest degree of a quality