Wednesday, October 3, 2012

31 Days to Better Grammar: Day 3 — It's all well and good.

I am having so much fun with this, and it's all because YOU are here, reading and commenting! I'm getting encouraging emails from people I've never heard from before, and I'm having hilarious conversations on Facebook with word-nerds around the world. What could be better?

If this is your first time here, you can read the lessons from Day 1 and Day 2 at their respective links, and then join us back here when you're ready. I think there's probably a cool, tech-y way to get one post to link to the next and so forth, but that's certainly not my gift, so we'll just keep doing it the hard way. (God help me when we get to day 28. That's a lot of links! If you can explain the cool, tech-y way, feel free. At the end of the month, I'll send you a Starbucks gift card.)

By popular demand (of at least four people), today we're going to learn about good and well, and when to use which one.

Good = adjective; a word that modifies (or describes) a noun or pronoun. Adjectives tell which, whose, how many, or what kind of.

this ball (which)
Mary's ball (whose)
twelve balls (how many)
red (or big or ugly or cold or bouncy or deflated) ball (what kind of)

If someone asks you the age-old question, How are you? you could answer I am good, because good describes the noun, which is I.

Well = adverb; a word that modifies (or describes) a verb (or an adjective or another adverb). Adverbs tell how, when, where, or to what degree.

He sat quietly. (how)
He sat yesterday. (when)
He sat here. (where)
He sat very nicely. (to what degree) (Very is an adverb that modifies another adverb, nicely. And it does it mighty nicely.) (Ha! That's a joke. It's okay to laugh. We're having fun, right?)

That may seem like a pretty detailed explanation, but I believe if I give you more information than you want, you can pick out what you need and come back for more when you're ready. (I taught my children this way too. I remember having detailed discussions about what a mortgage is and how and why you get one when the kids were from 3–11 years old. You would be amazed at how much children can understand!)

So the bottom line is this:

Good describes a thing. 

The dog is good. The cheesecake is good. The football game is good. I am good.

Well describes how something is done.

Man-squared eats well. Abbey drives well. Ben builds tables well. I cook well.

But wait! There's more! (You didn't think anything in English would be simple, did you?)

Sometimes, well is used to mean in good health

Mr. Brown is well.

Now, I know what you're thinking. I can hear the whiny voice saying, "But you said well was an adverrrrrb! In the sentence, well is describing Mr. Browwwwn, who is a noun, so it must be an adjectiiiiiiive." 

But that little verb in the middle of the sentence has great power to prop up nations, to change the outcome of wars . . . uh, sorry.

Is is a form of the verb be, which is a linking verb—it shows a state of being. And in this example, Mr. Brown's state of being is well. He's in good health. And I know he's happy about that.

So if tomorrow in your travels someone asks How are you? you can answer in any one of three ways:

1. I am good. (if you mean you are a good person)

2. I am doing well. (if you mean life is going along swimmingly and your transmission didn't die like mine did today)

3. I am well. (if you mean you are in a state of good health.)

Whew! I'm exhausted.

Be thankful ~


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, I am not well. =) Great lesson today.

While I wish I could earn that Starbucks card, I don't know the answer to your question either. Sorry.

Kayla said...

I am sorry, Karen. I arrived a few days late to your grammar party. My apologies. But, I am here now and have caught up on the first two days. Thanks for this. Perhaps I will learn something and be less afraid to comment on your blog! I am happy you are having a positive response to this. As you know, it is something that is needed in the world-at-large.

Dorothy said...

I'm enjoying your series, definitely a needed one! I would love if you address colons and semi-colons. I know for me I think i know how to use them but lack confidence.

I live IN Jesus said...

Awesome! :)I Thanks for this!