English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

"I'm doing great" appears to be incorrect (to me) because 'great' can be used as an adjective. I would think that it should be: "I'm doing (adverb)." Why is it actually correct to say "I'm doing great"?

share|improve this question
Your premise is incorrect. There is nothing wrong with “I’m going great/fine” etc. – tchrist Aug 8 '13 at 14:06
Some verbs (doing, going, feeling) act as copular, or linking, verbs when used this way...you are basically saying "I am great". Saying "I am greatly" is obviously wrong. See usingenglish.com/glossary/copula-verb.html – JeffSahol Aug 8 '13 at 15:06
Wherever you got the seeming that told you that this seems to be incorrect -- Miss Fidditch or Sister Mary Eugenia in the fourth grade, Strunk and White, an ESL book, some smartypants friend -- discard the grammar parts. It's full of misinformation. No conclusion can be drawn from the fact that great can be used as an adjective. It is not true that this curtails the uses of great -- it merely describes some of them. The fact that an airplane can cruise at 200 miles an hour does not mean it must always be doing so, every time you encounter it. – John Lawler Aug 8 '13 at 15:27
Suggestion. If you change the title of your question to: Why is "I'm doing great" correct? You might get better answers and fewer down-votes. – Mari-Lou A Aug 9 '13 at 5:20
How about "I was doing great until you corrected me"? – Sven Yargs Aug 9 '13 at 21:57
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Most adjectives that describes the perceived ‘quality’ of an action carried out by someone, or their state of being, correspond to identical adverbs. Examples include such adjectives as ‘fine’, ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘great’, ‘fantastic’, ‘horrible’, ‘okay’, etc.

I am doing great / †I am doing greatly
He plays okay / †He plays okaily
It works fine / †It works finely He’s got it bad / †He’s got it badly

Some, but not all, of these adjectives also have adverbial counterparts, whether formed by regular -ly derivation or otherwise, that are not identical to their adjectival forms. These are mandatorily used when describing degree/manner, rather than judging quality:

Wages have greatly increased
This story is fantastically boring
That tap is leaking badly

(Some dialects would be okay with using an adjective in the last example, but as far as I know, “Wages have great increased” is ungrammatical in every dialect of English, so the order of the constituents also plays a role here)

In the case of ‘good/well’, there is the additional problem that ‘well’ is both the adverb that corresponds to the adjective ‘good’, but also an adverb meaning “in good health”. This is part of the reason why so many know-it-alls insist that sentences like “I’m well” or “I’m doing good” are incorrect: they fail to realise that ‘good’ is an adverb and ‘well’ an adjective as well as vice versa. Moreover, the quality vs. degree/manner dichotomy does not fully apply to this particular pair either, further compounding the issue:

I am doing good / I am doing well

– are both equally valid, both when describing one’s current state of health (quality) and when answering a question on how one is getting along with a task (degree/manner).

share|improve this answer
“He’s really playing great tonight, isn’t he?” – tchrist Aug 10 '13 at 2:52
Using okaily as an adverb, formed from okay using the day>daily,gay>gaily model, appears to be incredibly rare. Google found one and exactly one instance of it outside of your own use above, and that was for “but we did okaily”. – tchrist Aug 11 '13 at 19:57
Yes, that was perhaps not made clear in the answer, but it is the reason there is a † in front of the phrase that includes it. Had it existed, of course, there would be no problem (“He plays horribly/brilliantly/etc.”). ‘Okay’ falls into the group in the following paragraph that do not have specifically adverbial counterparts. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 11 '13 at 23:01

Some verbs (doing, going, feeling) act as copular, or linking, verbs when used this way...you are basically saying "I am great". Saying "I am greatly" is obviously wrong. See http://www.usingenglish.com/glossary/copula-verb.html


"Doing" to me is an edge case here, but I'd argue for it being capable of being used as a copula, based on vernacular usage. If someone asks,

How are you doing?

You most commonly hear (SE USA) "good", which implies "I'm doing good". (copula)

The more formal response is "well"/"I'm doing well". (non-copula)

share|improve this answer
the verb 'do' is not listed in the list of 'principal copula verbs in English that can be used to connect the subject to an adjective.' – Chris Morris Aug 9 '13 at 19:01
Note: I'm not asking about "I am (word)." I am asking about 'I am doing (word)." – Chris Morris Aug 9 '13 at 19:02
@ChrisMorris I don't think that there is an exhaustive list of verbs that can be used this way. I edited to explain my reasoning. – JeffSahol Aug 9 '13 at 19:32
The link you provided claims that there is a definitive list of copula verbs,and 'do' is not in it. It seems odd to provide the link and then claim that the link that you provided is not authoritative. In addition, "I'm doing good" seems to express the idea of doing things that are morally good (or good for the target of the good being done). For example, a 'do-gooder' (like Superman) could accurately say, "I'm doing good." – Chris Morris Aug 11 '13 at 13:42
@ChrisMorris The site says that "The following are the principal Copula Verbs in English..." It does not say that is all of them. To your second point, yes, "good" has plenty of meanings (and not just moral good as you pointed out), but there is a plain meaning of the phrase "I'm doing good" when used as a response to "How are you doing?". At least around here. – JeffSahol Aug 12 '13 at 7:45

Could you also say "I'm doing greatly."?

You could, but people would look at you funny.

share|improve this answer
Or they’d look at you funny, even. ;-) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 10 '13 at 2:53
@JanusBahsJacquet That's what I wrote, in fact, but someone missed my point and edited my answer. :-) – Caleb Aug 10 '13 at 4:55

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.