When someone asks, “How are you?” should you say you are good? Or that you are well?
Today let's look at the difference between these two words, good vs. well, to better understand when and how to use each correctly.
Good vs. Well
Quick visualization exercise: Think back to a time when you did something fantastic. Maybe you won a sixth-grade spelling bee; maybe you were part of a national-championship rugby team; or perhaps you were part of a group that set the world record for largest group “Thriller” dance.
Whatever your achievement was, I'm sure someone told you that you were fantastic. They showered you with all kinds of praise telling you that you did good.
You did well.
When Someone Asks How You Are, It's Okay To Say “Good”
First and foremost, let me give you permission to respond to “how are you” with “good.” Go ahead.
Replying “good” is grammatically correct if you're not directly referring to your health.
Responding with “well” means that you aren't sick. “Good,” on the other hand, suggests you're in good cheer.
When “Good” Is Not Good
However, using “good” in conjunction with an action verb is wrong. Always.
“Good” is an adjective. Adjectives modify (or give more information about) nouns and pronouns. So we use “good” when describing nouns (“Good puppy!”).
You did not write good, play good, or dance good. You did all those things well.
You can be good. You can do good, but only in the sense that you are doing charitable acts.
But you can't do good at math. You do well at math.
Good vs. Well: They Are Not Interchangeable
While it's okay to use good when someone asks how you are, that doesn't mean good and well are interchangeable.
- “Good” is an adjective used to describe nouns (like your soccer skills or your emotional state)
- “Well” is both an adverb used to describe verbs (like how your soccer game went) and an adjective used to describe nouns (especially your health)
Now, may you never confuse the two again!
Need more grammar help? Once you master good vs. well in the practice below, check out my favorite tool that helps find grammar problems and even generates “good” reports to help me write “well”: ProWritingAid. Works with Word, Scrivener, Google Docs, and web browsers. Also, be sure to use my coupon code to get 250 percent off: WritePractice20
Write a scene between little Suzy and her mother right after Suzy did something fantastic (won the spelling bee, dominated at the national rugby tournament, or played a great zombie in the “Thriller” flash mob, perhaps?).
Particularly focus on the dialogue between Suzy and her mother about how good Suzy's performance was, how well she spelled/tackled/”thrilled.” Make sure you use “good” and “well” correctly.
Write for fifteen minutes.
Um… I mean well.
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Liz Bureman has a more-than-healthy interest in proper grammatical structure, accurate spelling, and the underappreciated semicolon. When she's not diagramming sentences and reading blogs about how terribly written the Twilight series is, she edits for the Write Practice, causes trouble in Denver, and plays guitar very slowly and poorly. You can follow her on Twitter (@epbure), where she tweets more about music of the mid-90s than writing.