It may not be a famous theory but knowing how to use well and good correctly is a form of art. Most probably, we may not even realise that there is a rule about when to use ‘well‘ and when to use ‘good‘. That said, the usage of well vs good is usually intuitive and not a cause of concern but is important to understand. The wrong usage of well vs good impacts the precise delivery of our message in communication.
Let’s consider the below:
1. He didn’t look well.
2. He didn’t seem well.
3. He didn’t look good.
Only two of the sentences above are correct and those are Sentence 2 and Sentence 3. Let’s look at the difference between ‘well‘ and ‘good‘ so that the difference is clearer and more comprehensible.
‘Good’ is an adjective while ‘Well’ is an adverb.
As such, use ‘good’ to describe things, feelings, and other nouns. We use ‘good’ to describe things that we can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. ‘Good’ alters the state of a noun with an adjective. For example, ‘A loaf of bread’ and ‘A good loaf of bread’.
On the other hand, use ‘well’ to describe an action, an intangible, and other verbs. We use ‘well’ to describe things that we feel inwardly and that are intangible such as our health, quality of work, and knowledge/skill. ‘Well’ alters the state of a verb with an adverb. For example, ‘The meat is cooked’ and ‘The meat is cooked well’.
Besides that, do note that the adverb ‘well’ explains about the action. In describing the quality of the activity, ‘well’ is put before the verb with a hyphen. Examples include ‘well-known’, ‘well-executed’, ‘well-mannered’, and ‘well-versed’.
Examples of ‘Well’ vs ‘Good’
In order to provide better clarity to the difference between ‘well’ and ‘good’, let’s check out the simple examples below:
- ‘You look well.’ vs ‘You look good.’
The example above is a common mistake among Malaysians as we mostly assume ‘well’ has the same meaning of ‘good’. Saying ‘You look well.’ to someone, implies that the person has/had health issues and is now looking better.
If the person has been perfectly healthy and looks good, ‘You look good.’ is the right way to compliment the person. As explained above, the adjective ‘good’ is for describing something that we use our five senses (look, smell, touch, taste, hear) to judge.
On the other hand, if the person is recovering from a sickness and regaining health, ‘You look well.’ is the right way to compliment the person. As explained above, the adverb ‘well’ is for describing something that is intangible such as health.
- ‘This is a good job. Well done! vs ‘This is done well. Good job!‘
The example above illustrates the difference between ‘well’ and ‘good’ with more clarity. Both sentences show that both ‘well’ and ‘good’ can carry the same meanings but execute differently.
The first sentence in ‘This is a good job.’ compliments the ‘job’, which is a noun. As explained above, ‘good’ is for describing the noun (job). It is quite obvious here that ‘well’ can’t describe the noun ‘job’.
On the other hand, the first sentence in ‘This is done well.’ compliments the verb ‘done’ which is a verb. As explained above, ‘well’ is for describing the verb (done). It is quite obvious here that ‘good’ can’t describe the verb ‘done’.
- ‘The outing was good as the kids behaved well.’
The example above illustrates the difference between ‘well’ and ‘good’ within one sentence. The sentence clearly shows the adjective ‘good’ describes a noun (outing). Whereas the adverb ‘well’ describes a verb (behaved).
- ‘ The food was well prepared. It tasted good.’
The example above also illustrates the difference between ‘well’ and ‘good’ within one sentence. The sentence clearly shows the adverb ‘well’ describes the verb ‘prepared’. Whereas the adjective ‘good’ describes the food (noun).
Upon seeing more sentences that clearly show the nuanced difference between ‘well‘ and ‘good‘, you will be more familiar with the correct use between the two. It only takes a little bit of practice and mindfulness before using ‘well‘ and ‘good‘ to be able to use those words precisely in your communication
You may check out more posts in my blog that explain big differences between two words that are almost similar in meaning or spelling such as ‘cause’ vs ‘because‘ or be ‘beware’ vs ‘be aware‘, and ‘moreover’ vs ‘furthermore‘. Please let me know in the Comments section below if you find this post useful or if you have any questions you’d like to ask. I also welcome suggestions for which topics you would like to see me cover in this blog.
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Until then, stay safe and eat well, and remember – your ideas are only as good as your execution.