I told someone I was doing good in my new community, and they thought I was talking about my well being. When I told them that I meant I was doing good in the community like in a helping out "do-gooder" sort of way, they told me that "good" and "well" can be used interchangeably in my context and always refer to one's well being.

But doesn't only the word "well" mean state of health to avoid misunderstandings like this? Doesn't "I've been doing good in the new community" mean I have been doing good things in the community to help out? And doesn't "I've been doing well in the new community" mean that I am healthy, not being harassed by the community members and whatnot?

  • 1
    The "doing things for the sake of others" meaning of "do good" is both well known and acceptable; I'm surprised the someone you spoke to was unfamiliar with it.
    – user867
    Oct 21, 2013 at 5:51
  • To answer your question, "good" and "well" cannot always be interchangeable. I have good news, She's a good teacher; How much good can we do? There is good and bad in the world; in none of these cases (and there are many more) can "good" be substituted with "well".
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 21, 2013 at 7:56
  • In your context, doing good in the community, it's clear you were talking about doing humanitarian actions which benefit everyone living in that area.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 21, 2013 at 8:02
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    Although admittedly 'I'm doing good now I've settled here in Leigh" doesn't sound very idiomatic, and might well be taken to refer to one's own wellbeing. 'Since moving to Leigh / here, I've found quite a few areas where I feel I can make a real contribution to village life.' Oct 21, 2013 at 9:51
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    Basically, the answer to the question in the title is "sometimes – but be aware that each carries different senses, that certain senses are more likely to be intended and assumed in different situations, and that 'anything that can lead to confusion will lead to confusion' ". Oct 21, 2013 at 10:01

2 Answers 2


Good is common as an adverb in informal speech, especially after forms of do: He did good on the test. She sees good with her new glasses. This use does not occur in formal speech or edited writing, where the adverb well is used instead: He did well on the test.

Please see this link for reference: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/good?s=t

I hope you understand. :)

  • 2
    But isn't the OP talking about doing "good actions" for the community, not in his performance? "Well" also carries other meanings, "I'm doing well" is I feel fine or I'm healthy.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 21, 2013 at 7:42
  • Yes, and the person listening to OP apparently came up with the wrong interpretation. One could debate whether OP was over-ambiguous or audience under-aware of polysemy (or both). Oct 21, 2013 at 9:57

Beware idiomatic expressions. "I was doing good in my new community" does not mean "I was doing good work in my new community" -- it means "I was prospering/ managing well in my new community." Your interlocutor cannot be faulted. This adverbial usage of good is informal, in the sense of "well".

good adverb informal (ODO)
well: my mother could never cook this good; I’m feeling pretty good, all things considered

  • Beware sweeping statements. The first page of Google returns for "she was doing good" has examples of both usages. Admittedly, 'I was doing good' is less likely to be self-aggrandisement, but that sense would not be wrong (from a linguistics point of view). Oct 21, 2013 at 15:25
  • The op later clarified his statement to the lady by saying:"...helping out "do-gooder" sort of way..." In which case, it is strange that the lady and her friends insisted that good and well are interchangeable and always refers to well-being.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 21, 2013 at 20:50
  • @Mari-Lou A That's all good and well. I wonder if there are any oil goods in OP's locality. Oct 21, 2013 at 23:21

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