Grammar

Confused About “Good” vs. “Well”?

“I think I did good on the test,” Karina told her classmate, Alberto.

“You mean you did well on the test,” Alberto corrected her. “It is wrong to use ‘good’ in that sentence.” Somehow, he managed to smile and sneer at Karina at the same time. “You should be glad we took a math test today and not an English test!”

Although Karina was aware that there is some kind of difference between “good” and “well”, she had never paid much attention to it until her conversation with Alberto. “It was a little embarrassing,” Karina later recalled. “I didn’t like the way Alberto tried to make me feel stupid. Math is my best subject, but I actually get decent marks in my English classes. I guess I just never learned the difference between good and well.”

Just like many English language learners, some native English speakers aren’t sure about when to use “good” and when to use “well”. So we will examine the differences and provide examples of when to use each one.

When to use “good”

“Good” is an adjective. It means that the quality of something is positive, desirable, suitable, or nice. We use “good” to tell us about a person, a place, or a thing—that is, a noun. “Good” tells us about a state of being rather than an action.

That was a good meal!

In the above sentence, “meal” is a noun and “good” tells us what that meal was like.

Here are some other sentences where “good” is used as an adjective:

Mai came up with a good idea for the summer advertising campaign.

These are my good shoes that I only wear on special occasions.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read for my American literature class?

The children were good when their parents took them to the fancy restaurant. (This one might be a little tricky since “good” comes after the noun. But note that “good” is modifying the noun “children”.)

That cake looks good! (Here, “good” is telling us about the noun “cake”, not the verb “look”. If you keep reading, you will see why this is important!)

When to use “well”

While “good” is an adjective, “well” is an adverb. Adverbs usually modify verbs, but sometimes they also modify adjectives or other adverbs. Adverbs tell us about how an action is done. In the case of “well”, it means that something was done in a way that had a positive outcome.

Let’s go back to our earlier exchange between Karina and Alberto. Taking a test is an action that Karina performed; it was something she did. Therefore, when she was talking to Alberto about the results of her action, she needed to use “well” because it’s an adverb.

I think I did well on the test.

Here are some additional examples of how “well” is used as an adverb:

Ivan sings well now that his voice has changed.

How well can you speak Mandarin?

I did well on my performance review at work.

My sister sews very well, but I don’t think she can make your wedding dress.

Do you feel good or do you feel well?

“Good” and “well” can be a little tricky when we are discussing someone’s health.

I feel good.

I don’t feel good.

You may have noticed that “feel” is a verb. This means according to the rules we described earlier, “well” should be used in this sentence instead of “good”, right? The answer to this question is, “It depends”.

If someone is using “good” to describe their overall sense of being, then it is correct. In a sentence such as “I feel good”, “good” is modifying “I” rather than “feel”.

If you see “well” used with some form of the verb “to feel” (and usually with some form of “to look” or “to be”), this is almost always tells us about someone’s health. The example sentences below include some context to make this clearer for you:

I feel well since I came home from the hospital.

Uncle George has lost a lot of weight and he really doesn’t look well.

I haven’t felt well since I caught Covid last month.

My neighbor hasn’t been well for a long time, so I wasn’t surprised when I heard that he died.

I’m not completely recovered from the flu, but I feel well enough to go to work today.

Some common expressions

Both “good” and “well” can be found in various common English expressions. Some of these expressions follow the rules of grammar, but others are idiomatic (which basically means they don’t follow the rules). If you are an English language learner, your best strategy is probably just to memorize these expressions and how they are used.

In the table below, you will find some of the most common “good” and “well” expressions, along with their meanings.

There are also many common phrases where “well” is used, such as “I feel well” or “All is well.” These phrases use “well” to describe a state of being or general condition. It’s important to remember these phrases as they are commonly used in English.

ExpressionMeaning
Good job!This is a compliment for when someone does something well.
Well done!This has the same meaning as “Good job!”
However, when preparing food, “well done” means something has been cooked to the point where it is almost burned.
Good for you!This is a compliment to show that you approve of someone’s actions.
Get well soon!This is a message given to people who are sick.
As well asThis is sometimes used in place of “and”, “plus”, or “in addition to”.
Good morning/afternoon/eveningThese are greetings that are used at different times of the day.
Well-roundedThis describes a person who has a wide range of abilities or skills.
GoodbyeThis word is used when people are parting and want to bid each other farewell.
FarewellThe meaning is the same as “goodbye”.

If you still need some help with “good” and “well”, click the blue box below. One of our TextRanch editors will take a look at your writing and provide you with corrections/feedback.

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