Well vs Good

Well vs Good

A big confusion for many English learners is the difference between ‘good’ and ‘well. There is a general rule for this, and as in most English grammar, there are some important exceptions.

Firstly, watch the following video (change it to HD!):

The Video

General Rule

Here is the general rule: ‘Good’ is used as an adjective and ‘well’ is an adverb. In other words, use ‘good’ with nouns and ‘well’ with verbs. Here are some examples:

  • He cooks well.
  • He’s a good cook.
  • I play the guitar well.
  • I’m a good guitarist.
  • Messi played well yesterday.
  • Messi is a good player.

You might hear (mainly Americans) say, “He did good.” This is grammatically incorrect but it is quite common to hear.

Exceptions

Now, let’s take a look at the exceptions of when we use ‘good’ as an adverb. I like to use the example of James Brown in a restaurant.

1. “Wow, it smells good in here!” – We use ‘good’ with the verb ‘smell.’ ‘You smell good’ is something you might say to someone who has nice perfume.

2. “The food looks good” – We use ‘good’ with the verb ‘look.’ James might also say that his friend looks good in her dress, ‘You look good!’

3. “This tastes good” – James likes the taste of food, and he uses the correct grammar as we use ‘good’ with the verb ‘taste.’

4. “Sounds good” – James says this to the waiter when he is asked if he wants some chocolate cake for dessert. This is a way agree to something. It can also be used literally when talking about music for example: ‘The band sound good tonight.’

5. “It was good” – James responds to the waiter when he asks, “How was the food?”

6. “I feel good!” – At the end of the meal James says this as he is very happy. This is something that you must have heard James say before:

Good vs Great vs Fantastic

‘Great’ and ‘fantastic’ can be substituted for ‘good.’ Great is probable the most common word to use with the sensation verbs above. Fantastic is the strongest out of the three. Here is an example:

(Robert and Tamara are about to leave to go on a date. Tamara walks downstairs.)

Tamara: How do I look?

Robert: You look good.

Tamara: Only good?

Robert: No, you look fantastic!

Here are more examples:

  • Wow, the food looks great. Thank you for inviting me to dinner.
  • You smell great! What perfume are you using?
  • Your new business idea sounds great, I think it will work here.
  • Wow! This tastes fantastic, why haven’t we come here before?

How Are You?

“Very well, thank you.” This is a standard response, but a lot of people today say, “I’m good” when responding to this question. Here are two more answers:

1. I’m doing well.
2. I’m doing good. (grammatically incorrect but common).
3. Fine, thanks. (A little more formal)
4. Fantastic! (You feel great)

More Information

In Northern England you will hear people use ‘well’ in place of ‘very’. For example, “I’m well tired.” This sounds quite informal so it’s best not to use it, especially if you’re not talking to someone from that area.

It’s all well and good reading about it, but now you have to use it. This phrase means that it’s not sufficient to just read this article, but you also have to put it into practice!

Exercise


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  • Carlos

    good lesson!

  • Jayme

    Hi Jack! Just wanted to let you know you have a typo; you’re missing the apostrophe in “He’s a good cook.” Cheers!