Good vs. Well, or a Guide on adjectives and adverbs in English

Today we will talk about a rather slippery topic in English grammar. It looks simple. Bad is an adjective and badly is an adverb. But how do you say correctly: “I feel bad” or “I feel badly”? “I feel good” or “I feel well”? Such nuances are very confusing for students who are studying English. Therefore, today we are talking about adjectives and adverbs. And also how to avoid common mistakes when using them.

All about the adjective

As in Russian, English adjectives answer the questions: “Which?”, “Which?” or “Which one?”

They change the properties of the noun, adding new meanings.

Give me a shirt, please. – Give me a shirt, please.

The man asks for a shirt, but it is not clear which one. If he means any specific, and not any, then he needs to clarify the phrase with the help of adjectives.

Give me my new red shirt, please. – Give me my new red shirt, please.

Any number of adjectives can be placed in front of a noun. And in English, their order is strictly predetermined. This is a bit strange for a Russian speaker, so students make a lot of mistakes in this listing.

There must be order in everything

The correct adjective order is:

Opinion – Size – Physical State – Shape – Age – Color – Origin – Material – Type – Purpose

That is, if you want to paint a shirt in the best possible light, then it will be something like this:

– Give me my marvelous new red chinese silk shirt, please. – Give me my gorgeous new red Chinese silk shirt, please.

Memorizing the correct order is extremely difficult. But the incorrect placement of adjectives is immediately noticed by native speakers, and on exams like TOEFL and IELTS this is considered a serious mistake.

In most cases, the adjective comes before the noun it refers to.

new shirt – new shirt

pure water – pure water

black hair – black hair

But in sentences after some verbs, the adjective will come after the noun.

These are the verbs:

  • appear

  • be

  • become

  • feel

  • look

  • seem

  • smell

  • sound

  • taste

Important! After these verbs, you need to put adjectives, not adverbs.

The salad tastes delicious. – The salad looks delicious.

You look awesome. – You look amazing.

The dog seems dangerous. – The dog seems dangerous.

Please note that adjectives in English can be translated as adverbs in Russian.

The phrase “You look amazing” sounds much more natural than “You look amazing”. But in English you can’t say “You look awesomely” – an adverb won’t work here.

There are only a few exceptions, in which the adverb in this case can act as an adjective, but more about them later.

All about the adverb

The adverb answers the questions “How?”, “Where?”, “When?” and “How much?” And in most cases they are derived from adjectives with the -ly suffix.

  • Careful – carefully

  • Dangerous – dangerously

  • Nice – nicely

But you need to be careful here, because there are adjectives with the -ly suffix at the end. For example, friendly or timely.

So you need to pay attention to what exactly they affect in the sentence. If adjectives change and add meanings only to nouns, then adverbs affect the rest: adjectives, verbs, other adverbs, or even the entire sentence.

Compare phrases:

  • Real Madrid has won the League of Champion cup. – Real Madrid won the Champions League Cup.

  • Unfortunately, Real Madrid has won the League of Champion cup. – Unfortunately, Real Madrid won the Champions League Cup.

You have the wrong adverbs here

In addition to the usual adverbs ending in -ly, there is a fairly large number of “irregular adverbs” in English, which either completely coincide with a similar adjective, or do not obey the “adjective + ly” rule.

Some of the most common are:

  • good – well

  • fast – fast

  • hard – hard

  • early – early

  • daily – daily

  • straight – straight

  • wrong – wrong

It’s the fast way to get resources exploited. – It fast a way to take advantage of resources.

We just needed some answers fast… – We just needed some answers and fast

Two forms are also possible

In some cases, two forms of the adverb are acceptable. With and without the -ly suffix. Here are some of these words:

cheap, clean, clear, close, dear, fine, loud, quick, quiet, slow, thin

Don’t speak loud!

Don’t speak loudly!

Both phrases translate as “Don’t speak loudly.” But there is a small semantic nuance between them. The second sentence, which is loudly, sounds more formal and formal, while the first is more conversational. But in general, you can choose any option – both are absolutely correct grammatically.

Warning! Adverbs change meanings

And we smoothly approached the largest set-up that only adverbs can give. Because in some cases options with the -ly suffix and without it are radically different in meaning.

– You are able to get it free. – You can get it for free.

– You are able to get it freely. – You can get it freely.

Do you see the difference? The adverbs free and freely change sentences, but they do it in different ways.

You can’t do anything about it – you just need to learn both options.

Under the spoiler, we have collected the most popular adverbs with two variants that are very different from each other.

deep = deep

deeply = very, much

direct = direct, by the shortest path

directly = immediately

easy = slow and neat

easily = no problem

free = free

freely = willingly, voluntarily, no problem

full = exactly

fully = fully

hard = hard, with effort

hardly = hardly, almost, not quite

high = high

highly = very strong

last = last

lastly = finally

late = late

lately = recently

near = near, close

nearly = nearly

pretty = enough, pretty

prettily = gracefully, cute

short = short

shortly = soon

wide = wide

widely = large scale

wrong = wrong

wrongly = unfair

Bonus. Good and Well – how to use it correctly

The general rule is pretty simple.

Good should be used with verbs that denote feelings and states: smell, look, be.

This soup smells good. – This soup smells good.

Your offer sounds good. “Your proposal sounds good.

Everything else as an adverb is well.

She cooks really well. – She’s really good at cooking.

John plays football very well. – John plays football very well.

But there is one nuance on which almost all students who study English as a second language are mistaken.

The phrases “I feel good” and “I feel well”.

They sound similar, but the meaning is very different, even if they can be translated into Russian with only words.

“I feel good” is synonymous with the phrase “I feel happy”. The person feels morally good, he has a great mood and everything is fine in general.

The classic song “I’m feeling good” by Muse is about that.

“I feel well”, in turn, means good physical well-being and health. That is, either “I am healthy” or “I have already recovered.”

One of the special cases when this also works is the phrases “look good” and “look well”.

My granny looks good. – My grandmother looks good.

My granny looks well. – My grandmother sees well.

One word completely changes the meaning of the sentence, so this must be taken into account when communicating or texting in English.

These are the basic adjectives and adverbs to remember when learning English. But in fact, there are still quite a few of them. If you want to figure it out once and for all, sign up for a free trial lesson with a teacher and learn English with pleasure.

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