What is the correct usage? Apparently it is "I feel badly", but but wouldn't that mean you have an inadequate ability to feel?
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Assuming you're talking about a situation where something bad has happened to your friend, and you're saying you feel unhappy on their behalf, then "I feel bad for you" is correct.
You are right that "I feel badly" would mean you are having difficulty in feeling at all - which would be a rather unusual thing to say :)
In general the verb "to feel" will take an adjective (happy, sad, good, bad, angry, relieved) after it to indicate the feeling, rather than an adverb.
"I feel badly for you" sounds like teen-speak for "I am attracted to you". You probably meant "I feel bad for you".
Certain verbs like feel, smell, and taste take adjectives as complements, not adverbs. If you use an adverb with them, it changes the sense altogether, because it now modifies the verb rather than serving as a predicate complement describing the subject.
So you can have a dog that smells bad but like all dogs, he nonetheless smells well.
You cannot use badly as a verb. It will always be an adverb. In those two sentences, feel is your verb, which links an adjective (in this case bad) to the subject. Badly would be used to describe how something was done.
I think you can substitute the word sad for the word bad and it is then easier to get a better understanding of the use for bad. Clear?
I have a sense that "I feel badly" is acceptable. Native English speakers use this, who are not of low intelligence or poorly educated.
It's clear that either way, the semantic idea is that the speaker is experiencing an uncomfortable feeling.
A feeling is abstract: it can be regarded as a state or something that is happening. We don't really know what it is other than through subjective experience.
The linguistic tools for expressing it briefly (not using circuitous language like "I am experiencing an uncomfortable feeling") boil down to using an adjective or adverb: bad or badly.
Neither of these choices is a perfect fit.
"I feel bad" maps the "bad" adjective onto the speaker. So if "I feel stupid" means "I feel that I am stupid" then "I feel bad" should mean "I think that I am bad". But it doesn't.
"I feel badly" maps the "bad" onto the feeling regarded as an action that is going on. This is imperfect also. ("I feel badly" versus "I drive badly".) But there are also: "Think badly of someone" or "Speak badly of someone". The arguments against "feel badly" must take into account such examples also.
Neither choice precisely pins the badness onto the involutarily experienced emotional situation.
But between these two choices, representing the badness as an attribute of the feeling-action (necessarily an adverb) seems semantically cleaner than as an attribute of the noun (adjective) denoting the subject who is experiencing the feeling (involuntarily, at that). The feeling-action is closer to the meaning.
This is probably why some people use the "feel badly" construction; it seems to them that "I feel bad" is like "I feel that I am bad", but "feel badly" is like "think badly": having a negative feeling analogus to having a negative thought.
Badly is an adverb and explains how something was done.
Bad is an adjective and describes a noun.
Since the word being modified is "feel" (a verb), the proper modifier is "badly" (an adverb).
This is essentially the same as the difference between using "good" and "well".
Well modifies the verb feel while good modifies the noun health.
protected by tchrist Mar 1 '15 at 19:23
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