This question already has an answer here:

I am trying to explain to my Korean friend in the best way possible, I've got a good idea but am wondering if anyone can give me their perspective on the use of bad and badly here.

I want to go to Korea so bad.

I badly need to go to the toilet.

Note: This is not formal English, but it is heavily used in my opinion and possibly more slang than true language.

marked as duplicate by TimLymington, Mitch, Chenmunka, Drew, Misti Aug 17 '15 at 17:21

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • 1
    If someone is learning English, they should always use badly as an adverb. They won't make a mistake that way. "I want to go to Korea so badly," is a grammatical sentence. But nobody says "I bad need to go to the toilet" (although they do say "I need to go to the toilet so bad.") You can use adjectives instead of adverbs only in some positions in the sentence, and since this is colloquial, the rules are not written down. (And they also vary between U.K. and the U.S., and within different regions of the U.S.) – Peter Shor Aug 8 '15 at 15:42
  • That's definitely not a possible duplicate rofl. – insidesin Aug 8 '15 at 15:56
  • I don't think the reordering of the words, the change of noun, or the change of verb in these two sentences is significant, Bad/ly modifies want/need. So this is just an issue of 'ly' suffix usage. – candied_orange Aug 8 '15 at 15:59

You are right, "I want to go to Korea so bad" is very informal. It's more expressive than "I want to go to Korea so badly," because bad has more impact than badly. It conveys a miserable feeling.

Your other sentence, "I badly need to go to the toilet," is correct no matter how you look at it. It's about as formal as a sentence about going to the toilet can get.


I'd recommend to use badly in this case, but the discussion about this issue is still going on according to Grammarphobia:

What your question boils down to is this: Does “want” qualify as a linking verb (one that describes a state or condition, rather than an action)?

  • If it does, then it’s fine to say “He wanted this bad.” If not, then good English requires “He wanted this badly.”

  • The short answer is that there’s no short answer, because usage authorities disagree.

  • Many usage guides say that “want bad” is quite common in speech and informal writing, but it doesn’t belong in formal written English.

  • At least one guide, however, regards “want bad” as standard English.

  • Our advice, particularly since you’re a student being graded on grammar, is to use “want badly” in formal written English. You can use “want bad,” if you like, in other contexts.

    • Here’s the story. A linking verb (like “be” or “feel” or “seem”) is modified by an adjective (like “bad”) rather than an adverb (like “badly”). So, for example, it’s perfectly correct to say “I’m good” or “I feel good” or “I’m not bad” when someone asks you how you are or how you’re feeling.

    • We’ve written several blog items about this subject, including one in 2009.

    • There are 11 verbs generally considered linking verbs: “be,” “appear,” “become,” “feel,” “grow,” “look,” “remain,” “seem,” “smell,” “sound,” and “taste.”

    • Since “want” isn’t one of these, it should generally be modified by an adverb (as in “he wants it greatly”) rather than an adjective (“he wants it great”).

    • However, “bad” is a special case and sometimes acts as an adverb, according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage.

    • For instance, the dictionary says, “bad” is interchangeable with “badly” after the verbs “want” and “need.” So, in M-W’s opinion, expressions like “he needed it bad” and “he wanted it bad” are standard English. This makes some sense to us, since wanting and needing are closer to emotional states or conditions than they are to actions.

    • M-W notes, however, that while it considers these usages standard English, most of its evidence comes from speech rather than writing. And as we said earlier, many other commentators, including the editor of The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage, consider phrases like “want bad” and “need bad” to be informal rather than standard.

    • That’s why we advise you to pick your words according to context: conversation, casual writing, or formal written English. In any case, you can’t go wrong with “want badly.” Interestingly, at one time “want badly” was considered grammatically incorrect!

    • It was criticized by commentators in the early 1900s, apparently because they didn’t like the use of “badly” as an intensifier meaning “very much.” - This is no longer the case. Here’s what The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.) has to say on the subject:

    • “The use of badly with want was once considered incorrect but is now entirely acceptable: We wanted badly to go to the beach.”

    • There are two lessons here. One is that nobody will criticize you for saying “want badly.” The other is that English is a changing language. Stay tuned.

  • 1
    I personally prefer to use the ly suffix when appropriate but over the years I notice more and more people who never use it at all. Apples "Think different" campaign certainly didn't help. – candied_orange Aug 8 '15 at 15:51
  • This is not a totally sound analysis. “He wanted this bad” is a construction using 'bad' as a flat adverb, not a linking structure. 'Badly' or, with change of position, 'really' may be used to replace 'bad' here (and would be in more formal registers). "He wanted his [coffee] hot" is the look-alike object-orientated depictive structure. "He ate his breakfast naked" is a subject-oriented depictive structure. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 8 '15 at 16:01
  • @EdwinAshworth Why are your subjection and your objectation differently occidentated? :) – tchrist Aug 8 '15 at 16:59
  • Is "I'd recommend to use" actually grammatical in your language? It isn't in mine. I'd have to say "I'd recommend using" or "I'd recommend that you use". – tchrist Aug 8 '15 at 18:56
  • @tchrist I'd like to be able to claim I was writing this on a plane flying westwards across the Atlantic. I am planning a holiday in the US; this is of course no excuse at all (though I will visit the SW at the drop of an at). – Edwin Ashworth Aug 8 '15 at 20:59

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.