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Most of the time, I use good and well interchangeably. However, on many occasions I would find well or good a misfit. Please suggest the proper usage.

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I find it amusing that there's a 'noun' tag here, when in fact neither of the words you mention are nouns. :) –  Noldorin Nov 17 '10 at 15:45
    
Related (more specific): “Well” and “good” for how photographs come out. –  RegDwigнt Nov 19 '10 at 8:30

2 Answers 2

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Formally speaking, good is an adjective and well is an adverb. So in formal speech or writing, you would want to maintain this distinction.

Informally, English speakers can often use an adjective in place of an adverb. This is especially clear for words that take an -ly suffix to form an adverb. For example: "that guy walks strange".

Even informally, this does not go the other way. We can't use words that are clearly adverbs as adjectives: "he's a strangely guy."

This is the same for good and well:

  • This thing works pretty good. (Informally fine)
  • This thing works pretty well. (Informally and formally fine)
  • He is a good speaker. (Informally and formally fine)
  • *He is a well speaker. (Bad anytime)

There is also a certain special situation, namely talking about health, where well and good have different nuances, but both can be used as adjectives.

  • I am well. (=healthy)
  • I am good. (can mean healthy, also "not evil", skilled, etc.)
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"He is a well speaker" - perfectly fine! It means his profession is sitting in wells and speaking. Heh or as Steve said, a speaker who is currently healthy. –  Claudiu Nov 17 '10 at 15:39
    
@Claudiu: Yes, I agree — and I said as much in my answer. (See the last section.) –  Kosmonaut Nov 17 '10 at 15:42
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I recall a Monty Python sketch with the line "He's not a well cat". Perfectly comprehensible, but funny because utterly unidiomatic. Though I think "not a well x" became something of a catchphrase afterwards. –  Colin Fine Nov 17 '10 at 17:23
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Adjectives (at least some) get adverbed much more often in US than in UK usage. “That works pretty good” and “She was walking real strange” are fine informal usage in many (most?) US dialects, but quite jarring to a British ear. –  PLL Dec 13 '10 at 4:07

Good is an adjective. It is used with nouns, e.g. "He is a good dog".

Well is the adverb form of good. It is used with verbs, e.g. "He plays the piano well".

Confusingly, well can also be an adjective, meaning in good health, e.g. "a well person" (someone who is not sick).

There are examples where exceptions to these may be used informally, e.g. "I'm doing good" (good with a verb).

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It may be worth noting that "goodly" and "unwell" both go decidedly against the normal patterns [the former, despite the suffix, is an adjective; the latter, even though "well" is usually an adverb, is a negation only of the adjectival form]. Further, "doing good" may be an entirely correct construction if "good" is being used as a noun [e.g. so the phrase would mean meaning "contributing to the good of a community"] –  supercat Nov 15 '13 at 17:18

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