According to Collins English Usage,

Badly has another different meaning. If you need or want something badly, you need or want it very much: I am badly in need of advice; I want this job so badly; We badly need the money.

For this meaning of badly, don't use the comparative and superlative forms ‘worse’ and ‘worst’. Instead you use the forms more badly and most badly.

Is this distinction due to its meaning "(very) much", which already uses more/most as its comparative/superlative forms?

  • It's mainly that worse/worst just don't sound right in this context.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 5, 2020 at 12:33
  • Someone could be in worse need of advice.
    – Lawrence
    Apr 5, 2020 at 12:50
  • Suppose Jack Sprat and his wife have had nothing to eat for days, so they're both badly in need of food. Obviously Jack himself is more / most badly in need (because he doesn't have so much body fat to sustain him during lean times), and we certainly wouldn't say he was worse in need. But I'd be happy to say Jack is the worse / worst prepared for food shortages, as an alternative to most badly prepared. Apr 5, 2020 at 12:57
  • _ I want this job so badly; We badly need the money_ are also used as examples which use more/most
    – GJC
    Apr 5, 2020 at 13:23
  • "Badly has another different meaning"? As opposed to the same different meaning? Oy. Usually this is a cut & paste error, where I pop two word choices into one spot, to compare -- then delete one, unless I drink and edit. Compared to this advice, I vote for "I need trustworthy advice, bad." Apr 5, 2020 at 13:36

1 Answer 1


Worse and worst are the comparative and superlative forms of the adjective bad not the adverb badly. If you want to say more bad, you should use worse, but now you're using badly. So you would need to use worsely. But worsely isn't a word. You can't say "I am worsely in need of money than before". So you have to use more badly.

  • en.wiktionary.org/wiki/worsely
    – GJC
    Apr 5, 2020 at 18:54
  • It seems to me that "worse" can be the comparative form of "badly". For example, I sing worse than you do. Apr 6, 2020 at 4:22
  • Yes, I suppose you could. But badly inthis context means 'much', so you can't use worse. And worsely is very uncommon. Apr 6, 2020 at 11:12
  • My dictionary has: "worse", adjective, comparative of "bad"; but also adverb, comparative of "badly". (Oxford American Dictionary)
    – GEdgar
    May 5, 2020 at 20:35
  • Worse is the standard comparative form of badly. You use it except for the cases discussed in the question. Jun 4, 2020 at 21:38

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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