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“I'm well” vs. “I'm good” vs. “I'm doing well”, etc
What is the difference between “good” and “well”
“Goes good with” or “goes well with”

Is there a list of expressions or idioms in which well and good are used interchangeably like this one? Or an explanation as to which should be used and when?

I did well/good

I feel well/good

I am doing well/good

I will be good/well

I feel good/well about you

I think good/well of you

I do well/good

I know that generally well is used to describe a verb and good is used to describe a noun. Can I use bad in all these examples?


"Good" is an adjective, i.e. it modifies a noun. "Well" is an adverb, i.e. it modies a verb. Adding some confusion, "well" can also be an adjective meaning "healthy". "Good" can also be a noun, meaning something that is morally right or beneficial to society, as in "Giving to the poor is a great good."

If a sentence uses "good" as an adverb, it is a grammar error. It is a very common error in English, but I would still call it an error and not an idiom.

(As has been discussed on this forum in the past, language is largely or, some would say, entirely defined by what people commonly say, so if an error becomes very common, at some point we must say that it is now the standard. But I don't think using "good" as an adverb has reached that point.)

In some cases the structure of a sentence is such that more than one part of speech would make grammatical sense, though normally giving a different meaning. Your examples fall into either this category or the multiple meanings of "well" and "good" I mentioned a moment ago.

So in your examples:

"I did well" -> "well" is an adverb -> I completed the task correctly.

"I did good" -> "good" is a noun -> I performed a morally right action. The opposite of "I did evil." If the writer means that he performed the task correctly, this is an error and it should be "well".

"I feel well" -> "well" as an adjective -> I am healthy. In context, it could conceivably mean that I perform well at the task of feeling, like "I see well" meaning I have good eyesight, but this seems a rather unlikely thing to say.

"I feel good" -> "good" as an adjective -> I am satisfied with my present condition. Could mean healthy in which case the meaning would be essentially the same as "I feel well". The construction is the same as "I feel happy" or "I feel cold."

"I am doing well" -> "well" as an adverb -> Depending on context, either I am performing tasks correctly -- "Are you getting the job done?" "Yes, I am doing well"; or my personal state is good -- "Are you recovering from your illness?" "Yes, I am doing well".

"I am doing good" -> "good" as a noun -> I am doing things that are beneficial -> "Why are you volunteering at the homeless shelter?" "Why, I am doing good."

"I will be good" -> "good" as an adjective -> I will behave properly. "Billy, will you behave for the babysitter?" "Yes, mommy. I will be good." Depending on context, it could also mean that I will be in a desirable state. Like, "Oh, I didn't make enough food for dinner." "Don't worry, it's enough. I will be good."

"I will be well" -> "well" as an adjective -> I will be healthy.

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  • But what about I feel good/well about you and I think good/well of you? – Monica Sep 6 '12 at 19:01
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    "I feel good about you" -> good as an adj -> The feelings that I have about you are good. "I think well about you" ... I don't think that makes sense. "I think well of you" I think is more idiom than literal, I don't see what is being done well or what would be healthy. "I think good of you" -> the thoughts that I have about you are good, or I think that you are beneficial. I've heard it said, especially the variation, "Yes, John, I'm breaking up with you, but you know I will always think good of you". But it's rare, maybe because it sounds like you're using "good" as an adverb. – Jay Sep 6 '12 at 20:59
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    2017, And ODO labels 'good' (adv) as 'informal' (as do AHD and RHK Webster's), adding the example ‘I'm feeling pretty good, all things considered'. M-W gives an interesting usage note, but does not proscribe the usage, especially in the sports domain. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 6 '17 at 14:55

You have two questions: " ..I know that generally 'well' is used to describe a verb and 'good' is used to describe a noun.." You are correct. Apply that rule. For instance "I am doing well/good": HOW am I doing? The answer would be "Well". Am I doing good(engaging in good actions) or bad (engaging in bad actions)? The answer would be "Good".

..Can I use 'bad' in all these examples?" Not really. The bad only applies to engaging in bad actions, never to "HOW am I doing?" "How am I doing" would have to be answered "Badly" or better still "Poorly".

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    @Monica Keep in mind, however, that these rules apply only to relatively formal registers. In conversation, follow the usage of your interlocutors. In my circle, for instance, the highest approbation is expressed not by "You did well" or even "You did good" but by "You done good". – StoneyB on hiatus Sep 6 '12 at 14:19
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    @StoneyB I agree. You done good in your comment! – Bob Sep 6 '12 at 16:59

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