Good vs. Well


How are you? I usually answer one of two ways: I’m good or I’m doing well. Many people teach that either is acceptable when asked how you are, but I disagree. The more we blur the lines between the rules, the more exceptions are made, and the more confusing the language becomes.

But how do you know which one to use and why? The rules are pretty basic, but I find ‘well’ too formal in casual conversations with those I’m close to. In professional settings, I use ‘well’ and always use them correctly and know the difference.

Common Terms:

Adjective: a word that describes a noun or pronoun (good)
Adverb: a word that modifies everything else: adjectives, verbs, etc. (well)

Here are some quick guides to help you know when to use good or well:

1. Good describes people, places, things, ideas.
— That was a good show.
— We ate some good Chinese food.
— He smells good.

2. Well works as a state of being. It doesn’t have relate to just humans either. It can be a project, a work day, etc.
— I’m well. I’m doing well.
— The project is going well.
— He doesn’t look well today. (implies he is sick)

The best way to learn how to use these correctly is to do so. The more you practice and break bad habits, the more natural it becomes.

Try this quick test to practice, and if you have any other tips, feel free to share!

(Source: Bluebook of Grammar, my brain)


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