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“I feel bad for you” versus “I feel badly for you”

I'm terrible at the usage of bad vs. badly. Given the sentence:

I need to wash my hands bad[ly].

Should the correct term be bad or badly?

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marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, Kris, Matt Эллен, Carlo_R., jwpat7 Jan 8 '13 at 17:55

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No. The correct term should not be "bad or badly". –  Fortiter Jan 7 '13 at 1:35

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Part of your issue is the placement of badly. Where you have it in your sentence, it is trying to modify "wash"; however, what you want is for it to modify "need." So I would suggest this:

I badly need to wash my hands.

And even better:

I really need to wash my hands.

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Right, but if you were forced to work with the sentence as given, which one is more correct? Or are they both just equally wrong? –  Wesley Tansey Jan 7 '13 at 0:54
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I think they're both not ideal. I guess if forced to choose one, I'd choose I need to wash my hands bad, and risk sounding colloquial. I need to wash my hands badly sounds like you're not going to do a very good job of the washing. –  JLG Jan 7 '13 at 0:58
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I am not sure what circumstances might "force .. to work with the sentence as given" but, if you are, then there is no sense in which it can be made "more correct"; just a little less badder than it is. –  Fortiter Jan 7 '13 at 1:34

It would be better to say "I badly need to wash my hands" or "I need to wash my hands, badly". Where the adverb goes and how it's punctuated, if at all, determines what it modifies.

On the other hand, rather than using the ambiguous term badly here, you would be better off saying "I really need to wash my hands". In both cases, badly and really, the meaning is that your hands are very dirty and definitely need to be washed.

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