Take the 2-minute tour ×
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.

Which one is correct? Similarly, is "do good" correct?

share|improve this question
    
In Texas, the official state highway department term (the one that appears on the folded up backs of "Icy Road" signs during the approximately 11 months of the year when the roads aren't icy) is "Drive friendly." –  Sven Yargs Feb 28 at 18:37

7 Answers 7

"Drive safely" is the formally correct phrase.

Saying "drive safe" sounds casual and informal; however, many people do it. This is because, in general, people sometimes use the adjective form as an adverb (usually this means not adding -ly) in casual speech. It is not recommended in any formal situations.

"Do good" is a different kind of issue, because the form depends on the meaning you want to convey.

  • If "do good" means "do the right/good thing", then "do good" is the formally correct phrase.

  • If "do good" means "perform correctly/at a high level", then "do well" is the formally correct phrase. (But, as mentioned above, casually you could also say "do good" here.)

share|improve this answer
5  
Superman does good. You're doing well. –  anthony-arnold Jan 10 '11 at 7:19

I happened across this interesting article at The Economist, of all places, which speaks of this exact phenomenon, and notes that adverbs in adjective form have been around in English forever.

That article notes that there may be a subtle difference in meaning between "safe" and "safely," and I tend to agree. "Drive safely" more specifically refers to driving in a safe manner. "Drive safe" emphasizes the end result, being unharmed when you stop driving.

I'm often critical of poor grammatical constructions, but in this case, I think this is an acceptable phrase and does have a slightly different meaning or tone than "drive safely."

"Do good" has the unspoken meaning "Do good (things)" and generally refers to acting in a benevolent manner. If you mean to complete a task or test acceptably, you should say "Do well."

share|improve this answer

"Be safe" but "drive safely." Safely is an adverb modifying the verb drive. Safe is an adjective that can modify a noun.

share|improve this answer
    
If "be safe" is acceptable but "drive safe" is not, what about "work safe?" –  ghoppe Jan 10 '11 at 17:49
2  
@ghoppe, I would interpret "work safe" as an adjective meaning "safe for work", not as any sort of command or exhortation. –  Marthaª Feb 15 '11 at 5:08

"Drive safe" would possibly be used for transporting a strongbox, "drive safely" is driving in a safe manner.

"Do good" is correct, but it doesn't have the same meaning as "do well", it's doing something that is considered a good deed.

share|improve this answer

This argument about what is gramatically correct about "drive safe" and "drive safely" seems to run on and on. Some people quote native speakers say "drive safe". To me it depends on which country you are native of.

I learned my English at the knee of my parents both of which were of British heritage and consequently the use of the adverb as "drive safely" is clearly the gramatically correct usage. The English language has been influenced in many countries by people who learned the language as a second language, and consequently do not necessarily get the grammer totally correct. "Drive safe" may have become acceptable in common usage, but that does not make it gramatically correct.

Many hockey players say "he played awesome" Is the song titled awesome or did the speaker mean he played in a way that was awesome?

Speaking of the word awesome, the meaning has clearly changed over the years. Thats why you don't hear many older people using the word awesome. Does the event really casue you to go into a state of awe.

Similarly younger people use the word amazed in a new and different way than what it used to be used. Everything is amazing these days. It was an amazing sunrise! It was an amazing steak. How many sunrises do you have to see before they become less than amazing? Really are most of us amazed by a sunrise. It happens many mornings.

Similarly I find it difficult to be amazed by a steak. There are excellent steaks, and poor steaks, and tough steaks and burnt steaks, but are there really amazing steaks.

The new words that keep appearing in the English dictionary are there because the language is changing through usage. Quite often incorrect usage, but if used enough it become acceptable.

share|improve this answer
2  
While this isn't technically incorrect, it's more of a condescending opinion in the guise of authority than an answer. The children of Brits clearly “do not necessarily get the grammer [sic] totally correct,” and it isn't just second-language speakers who use adjectives as adverbs. This would be a better answer with more evidence and less judgment. –  Bradd Szonye Apr 30 '13 at 21:06
    
"Drive safe" is a "flat adverb". Everybody, including Shakespeare, used flat adverbs in English centuries ago, but they have now fallen out of use in the U.K., while we Americans proudly carry on the ancient custom of sometimes using adjectives as adverbs. (O.K., I'll admit we've changed our English a lot, but y'all changed it in this case.) –  Peter Shor Feb 28 at 21:45

I think that 'safe' can be used as an adverb when it applies to a maintained condition. In this case, 'drive safe' would be acceptable. It grates on my ears, but the American Heritage Dictionary supports this option. Consider also 'sleep tight.'

share|improve this answer

I think in the sentence "safe" modifies the verb "drive", so if we collocate "safely", our sentence sounds more natural. for instance in context, " please, drive safely because my car is new". I understand perfectly the meaning.

share|improve this answer

protected by tchrist Aug 13 at 14:43

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?