- I just finished a good book.
- I am good.
- I am well.
- The cake is good.
- The candy tastes good.
- I did well on the test.
- She is a good tennis player.
- She plays tennis well.
- I feel well.
All of the above sentences are correct in their use of well and good. The main difference between the words is that good is an adjective (and they generally describe nouns), and well is an adverb (and they usually describe verbs, or sometimes adjectives or other adverbs).
Here is why all the above sentences are correct.
- Good book.Good is an adjective in its usual place, right before the noun it modifies.
- I am good. If you have a “linking” verb, which is a verb that connects the word before it with the word after it (it serves as an equal sign), you use an adjective after it, not an adverb. Good doesn’t describe am; it describes I (I = good). The most common linking verb is the “to be” verb; some of its common forms are am, are, is, were, was, have been, will be. But the “to be” verb must be the only verb. If you say, “He was walking,” walking is the verb, not was. (Was is an “auxiliary,” or “helping,” verb here). Compare a linking verb to an action verb: I read a book. Read is not connecting I and book (I do not equal a book). I read well. Here, well is describing how you read, so you use an adverb.
- I am well. Hmmm….so if #2 is correct (I am good), how is I am well also correct? If you say, “I am good,” it is often in reference to how you feel. The explanation for why you use good in the sentence is in #2. However, well is acceptable after the “to be” verb if it refers to a state of health. So, they are both correct.
- The cake is good. Here is another example of using the adjective after the “to be” verb.
- The candy tastes good. You would never say, “The candy tastes well.” In addition to “to be,” the sense verbs are also sometimes linking verbs: look, smell, taste, feel, sound. See the comparison of these verbs as linking verbs and action verbs after #9 below.
- I did well on the test. Well is an adverb describing how I did (action verb did.)
- Good tennis player. Good is an adjective modifying tennis player after the linking verb is.
- She plays tennis well. Well is an adverb describing the action verb plays. How does she play?
- I feel well. This is pretty much the same as I am well. Feel is a linking verb because it is a sense verb here. However, well means a state of health here, so it is fine to use, even though it is generally thought of as an adverb. Here is a really an adjective. (Note that well can also be a noun – Timmy fell into the well – and even an interjection – Well! What have we here?
Comparison of action verbs and linking (sense) verbs:
- I am looking at the cake vs. The cake looks good.
- I smell smoke vs. The brownies smell good.
- I taste the salt in the chocolate vs. The chocolate tastes good.
- I feel my cat’s soft fur vs. The breeze feels good.
- I sound the whistle to get their attention vs. That music sounds loud.
Grammar Diva News
Does Your Flamingo Flamenco? will be available on Amazon (and soon everywhere else) in a couple of days.
I will be selling my books and giving readings and grammar tips at the Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa, CA on August 5, 11, and 13 from about 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. I will be part of the Redwood Writers tables inside the EC Kraft Building. All my books will be for sale, including a special back-to-school (or college or new job) package including three books at a special price: the grammar book, the grammar workbook, and the book of confusing words. If you are local, I hope to see you there. There will be many great authors and books for sale! (Well, the authors won’t be for sale, but the books will be!)
Which, that and who. These are pronouns that are often confused.
We aren’t talking about sentences like these:
- Which of these toys are yours?
- That book is mine
- Who is that girl?
We’re talking about sentences like these:
- I am taking the flight that leaves at midnight.
- My boss, who is a great athlete, plays tennis every day.
- That green dress, which was on sale, matches my eyes.
In the second list of sentences, that, which, and who function as a special type of pronoun (relative pronoun). These pronouns begin clauses (groups of words with a subject and a verb) that generally describe a noun.
- (I am taking the flight) that leaves at midnight – describes flight.
- (My boss) who is a great athlete – describes boss.
- (That green dress) which was on sale – describes dress.
Some of the “rules” pertaining to that, which, and who are pretty black and white; others are grayer.
Black and white:
- Which and that are used for things and animals.
- Who is used for people and animals with names.
- Which is used for nonessential, or nonrestrictive, clauses; that is used for essential, or restrictive, clauses.
- Commas are used around nonessential clauses (which).
- Sometimes you can leave out that. When?
- Sometimes you can use that with people. When?
Rule #1 Black and White: Use which for nonessential (nonrestrictive) clauses and that with essential (restrictive) clauses.
A nonessential (nonrestrictive) clause is added information that does not affect the meaning of the sentence. These clauses begin with which (or who) and are enclosed in commas. An essential, or restrictive, clause is necessary to the meaning of the sentence and begins with that without any commas.
- My twin sister, who is good at math, helps me with homework all the time. You don’t really need the words inside the comma. We already know we are talking about your twin sister, of whom there is only one.
- My sister who is good at math helps me with homework all the time. Here, the lack of commas implies that you might have more than one sister, and we are talking about the sister who is good in math. The clause is essential, or restrictive, here. You are defining which sister you are talking about.
- The Hobbit, which I have read three times, is also a movie. Here, the fact that you have read it three times is extra information and not necessary to the meaning of the sentence.
- The book that is on the front desk is mine. Here, you need the clause that is on the front desk to identify the book you are talking about. It restricts the book to the one on the front desk.
Rule #2 Black and White: Use that and which for things, and who for people and animals with names.
- The girl who always sits in the back of the room is my best friend.
- The cat that is sitting on the ledge belongs to my neighbor.
- Moe, who is my bulldog, is four years old.
- That dog, which is a chihuahua, has been at the shelter for months. (Actually this is kind of gray. No one will mind if you call this dog a who.)
Shades of Gray
Sometimes you can leave that out of your essential (restrictive) clause:
1.Usually after a form of the verb say: He said (that) he was going to Europe.
But you can’t do that if there is a time difference between now and when it was said:
- The teacher said on Wednesday we will have a test. You need that.
Does this mean
- The teacher said that on Wednesday we will have a test.
- The teacher said on Wednesday that we will have a test.
When you put that in, whichever one you mean becomes clear. Without that, it is ambiguous.
- That is usually good to use after certain verbs including (but not limited to) declare, estimate, contend, point out, propose, state:
- I declare that there is a problem.
- I estimate that the chair is four feet wide.
- She contends that she was here early.
- I would like to point out that you have chores to do.
- She proposed that a new rule be adopted.
- He stated that he did nothing wrong.
- It is usually wise to use that before clauses that start with words like after, before, until, and while:
- She said that after they are finished, they will meet us.
- I know that before dinner she had been out shopping.
- She said that until she was in third grade she couldn’t read.
- He thought that while the game was on, he could take a nap.
Remember that it is always correct to leave that in. So when in doubt, use it.
Another Shade of Gray
Usually we use who for people. If you are talking about a type of people or an organization, you generally use that (or which). However, if you are really referring to the people inside the organization, you can use who.
- The tribes that are native to this area are listed here.
- The School Board that was just elected will meet tonight.
- The School Board, who has helped us out with our fundraisers many times, is here tonight.
A Final Thought
That doesn’t have a possessive, so weird as it might sound, use whose with people and things:
- The desk, whose drawers are missing, is being donated to the school.
- The dog, whose litter mates have all been adopted, needs a good home.
Grammar Diva News
It’s almost ready!!
My new book contains over 250 confusing word pairs, groups, and phrases, presented alphabetically with cross references — easy to use! It will be available on Amazon and all other online retailers in late July (?), and will be on Kindle as a pre-sale soon.
Tuesday, July 4, is of course Independence Day. I hope you have a good holiday weekend — and that it lasts for four days! Next week we will get back to grammar, but this week is the annual Independence Day post. Here are some quotes about topics we are reminded of on July 4. I hope some of these quotes will resonate with you, and that you can find comfort in some of them as well.
“Those who won our independence… valued liberty as an end and as a means. They believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty.” Louis D. Brandeis
“In America we have a Declaration of Independence, but our history, our advancements, our global strength all point to an American declaration of interdependence.” Cory Booker
“The bedrock of our democracy is the rule of law and that means we have to have an independent judiciary, judges who can make decisions independent of the political winds that are blowing.” Caroline Kennedy
“Men say they love independence in a woman, but they don’t waste a second demolishing it brick by brick.” Candice Bergen
“There is no more independence in politics than there is in jail.” Will Rogers
“Without moral and intellectual independence, there is no anchor for national independence.” David Ben-Gurion
“Freedom of religion is a principle that is central to our Nation’s Declaration of Independence. Congress has taken this positive step to protect our freedom to express allegiance to America’s flag and the ideals it represents.” Ron Lewis
“The independence of the United States is not only more precious to ourselves but to the world than any single possession.” Henry Cabot Lodge
“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.” John F. Kennedy
“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty. ” John F. Kennedy
“The history of liberty is the history of resistance. The history of liberty is a history of the limitation of governmental power, not the increase of it.” Woodrow Wilson
“Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.” Mark Twain“Patriotism is love of country. But you can’t love your country without loving your countrymen and countrywomen. We don’t always have to agree, but we must empower each other, we must find the common ground; we must build bridges across our differences to pursue the common good.” Cory Booker
“Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong.” James Bryce
‘It is our conduct, our patriotism and belief in our American way of life, our courage that will win the final battle.” Prescott Bush
“True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else.” Clarence Darrow
“Fighting corruption is not just good governance. It’s self-defense. It’s patriotism.” Joe Biden
“Real patriotism is a willingness to challenge the government when it’s wrong.” Ron Paul
“America’s greatest strength, and its greatest weakness, is our belief in second chances, our belief that we can always start over, that things can be made better.” Anthony Walton
“There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.” Bill Clinton
“America has never been united by blood or birth or soil. We are bound by ideals that move us beyond our backgrounds, lift us above our interests and teach us what it means to be citizens.” George W. Bush
“The business of America is not business. Neither is it war. The business of America is justice and securing the blessings of liberty.” George F. Will
“I’m not going to quit. Why should I quit? This country is worth fighting for.” Hillary Rodham Clinton
“I believe America’s best days are ahead of us because I believe that the future belongs to freedom, not to fear.”John Kerry
“Either the United States will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States.” W.E.B. Du Bois
“Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed — else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die .” Dwight D. Eisenhower
“Here is my advice as we begin the century that will lead to 2081. First, guard the freedom of ideas at all costs. Be alert that dictators have always played on the natural human tendency to blame others and to oversimplify. And don’t regard yourself as a guardian of freedom unless you respect and preserve the rights of people you disagree with to free, public, unhampered expression.” Gerard K. O’Neill
“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” Thomas Paine
“We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.” William Faulkner
“The contest for ages has been to rescue liberty from the grasp of executive power.” Daniel Webster
“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival…. with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore. You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration and support and defend these States. Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory.” John Adams
The United States is the only country with a known birthday. All the rest began, they know not when, and grew into power, they know not how…. There is no “Republican,” no “Democrat,” on the Fourth of July — all are Americans. ~ James Gillespie Blaine
So, I’m not quite done with your pet peeves and other oddities you’ve noticed about word-related things . . .
- So, you don’t like beginning a sentence with so? So is a conjunction like and, but, and several other words (for, nor, or, and yet). The old rule is, “Don’t start a sentence with a conjunction.” But times have changed–or have they? There is never a real need to begin a sentence with and or but or so, but you might want to do it for a certain effect. It is fine in marketing writing, and I do it frequently in my grammar books. In a formal letter? I wouldn’t.
- Someone brought up that the words sell and sale sound the same spoken by someone with a Southern accent. (Note that alliteration with s!) But then, sell is a verb and sale is a noun, so you can probably figure it out from the context.
- A common problem: using the object of a prepositional phrase (rather than the sentence subject) to determine the verb (singular or plural). For example: A bowl of apples are on the table. The writer of that sentence used a plural verb (are) versus the singular verb (is) to make it agree in number with apples. But apples is the object of the preposition of; the subject of the sentence that the verb should agree with in number is bowl. Singular. A bowl of apples is on the table.
- Uncomfortable is a word. Uncomfortability is not a word.If it were, what would it mean? “Not able to be comfortable?” There is a noun meaning the state of being uncomfortable: comfortableness.
- Here is a geographical faux pas for Californians: apparently some people say they are going “to the peninsula” when they go to Santa Clara or San Mateo. But San Francisco is the peninsula. So they are actually going “down the Peninsula.” Beats me. Geography was never my favorite subject.
- Someone wrote that they didn’t care for training now being used by itself (as a noun), as opposed to with another word (as an adjective): for example, training program, training room, training department. Now we just say, I’m going to training. However, training is also a noun (a gerund, in fact), so it is fine to use by itself.
- Ten-year anniversary. Well anniversary implies years (from the Latin annus meaning “year”), so the phrase is redundant. How about tenth anniversary instead?
- Although some say that the distinction between less and fewer is disappearing (welcome to the dumbing down of the English language, probably mostly by Americans), some of us are happy that Whole Foods now has it right, and the sign above the express lane says, “Ten items of fewer.” In fact, I think most stores have finally learned the lesson and have replaced “Ten items or less” with “Ten items or fewer.” Once again, fewer is used with plurals and things that can be counted, like groceries. Less is used with singulars and things that cannot be counted (salt, sugar, etc).
- I think we have talked about no problem and no problemo in a previous post. Lots of people don’t like it– when a simple “You’re welcome” (not “Your welcome,” though) will do. I hear that the Australians say, “No wuccas.” It is short for “No wuckin’ forries” (spoonerism alert).