The perennial question of “good” versus “well”

For a long time, I don’t know how long, I have been in the habit of saying, “Good,” when someone asks me how I am.

A friend who is even more reactionary (in the good sense) and alert to insidious modernist drift than I am, pointed out that the correct response to the question, “How are you?” is not “Good,” or, even worse (and very common today), “I’m good,” but, “I am well.”

The moment I heeded his point and began saying “I am well” (or “I’m well, thank you”), instead of “Good,” there was a feeling that my conversation had been raised to a higher level. It felt good. (Because we are so designed by God that what is good feels pleasurable.)

- end of initial entry -

JC in Houston writes:

My late mother was a stickler for proper word usage, especially the proper use of good and well. Whenever I’d say something along the lines of, “The team played really good,” she would instantly correct me with, “The team played well.” It was almost automatic.

LA replies:

Yes. Except that these are two different cases, operating under different rules.

“The team played good” is incorrect, because the modifier of the verb “to play” is the adverb “well,” not the adjective “good.” An adjective modifies a noun, an adverb modifies a verb.

But when we say, correctly, “I am well,” the word “well” is not an adverb but an adjective that means, “in good health.”

Of course, “good” is also an adjective, but it does not have the meaning of “in good health.” This is not a question of grammar, but of proper idiomatic usage.

Paul K. writes:

My late father was one to correct those who used “good” and “well” incorrectly. He and I were waiting behind a woman at the supermarket check out, and when the clerk asked her how she was, she responded, “Good.”

Afterward I told my father we might have found an exception in this case, as the woman was a nun.

Paul T. writes:

I’m very glad to hear that you’re feeling well. I’d even have been pleased to hear that you were feeling good.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at July 07, 2012 01:12 PM | Send

Email entry

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):