The imminent arrival of the Winter Olympics makes this a perfect time to review the usage of the words good and well because we’ll soon hear countless interviewers and announcers telling us how good our athletes did in their events. In fact, they will have done well, not good, but it’s a common grammatical error and, sadly, I’m confident that we won’t be able to count on the television personalities to get it right.
Here’s the basic rule for determining whether you should use good or well: a thing is good, but you do something well.
Good is an adjective that describes people and things (nouns) so use it when you’re stating how something or someone is.
- Good Will Hunting is a good movie.
- Martha Stewart says “it’s a good thing”.
- Glinda is a good witch.
Well is an adverb that modifies action words (verbs) so use it when describing how something or someone does something.
- He did well on the English exam.
- She danced well in the recital.
- The hockey team played well.
There are exceptions to the rule, of course. For example, you can use good when referring to verbs of the senses. Something can smell good, taste good, feel good, or look good.
At this winter’s Games, I hope that our athletes have a good time and ski, snowboard, skate, curl and play hockey well. I hope the weather is good and the bobsleigh, biathlon, luge, and ski jumping events go well. I hope our team members look good in their Olympic outfits and represent Canada well.
And I hope that our announcers do well too.