Saturday, April 6, 2019

I Feel Bad for People Who Say They Feel Badly

Sometimes, even people who try to speak and write correctly end up making errors. I know I am guilty of that. Often those errors occur when people try to decide between the adjective “bad” and the adverb “badly.”

Here's a quick explanation that may help.
Be careful when using the words bad and badly,” so you will say exactly what you mean.

Most of the time, the choice is easy. 
For example: He has a bad cold. 
(Bad is an adjective that describes what kind of cold he has.) 
He behaved badly. 
(Badly is an adverb that describes how he behaved.)

The problem usually occurs when the word follows a linking verb, especially the linking verbs “feel” and “look.” (Remember that adjectives, not adverbs, should follow a linking verb.)

  • I feel badly. (This means my sense of touch is poor.) 
  • I feel bad. (This means my emotions are sad, unpleasant, or I am ill.) 

  • Jon looks bad. (This means he may be ill, or his appearance may be less than attractive.) 
  • Jon looks badly. (This means Jon has trouble with his vision.) 

Don’t feel bad if you have been making this mistake in your writing or speaking. The President of the United States and two famous television talk show hosts frequently use these words incorrectly. On one of the programs, the host said, “No one can make you feel badly about yourself except you.” I had a mental image of fingers moving around in the air.

The best way to avoid this mistake is to be conscious of the fact that you are using any form of the verb “feel” (feels, felt, feeling) or any form of the verb “look (looks, looked, looking), and then choose the correct word. 

If you need help with grammar or usage, be sure to check out my Simple Steps to Sentence Sense series of books. They have everything you need to become a better writer and speaker.

Thanks for reading,

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