Just like other niggling grammatical details, the good and well difference can be both complex and simple. Basically, “good” is an adjective and “well” is an adverb. However, a little detail called linking verbs further complicate the use of these words. If you have ever been tormented for giving an “I’m good” response, it will be pleasing to note that you had used it correctly.
Like other adjectives, “good” is used to modify verbs as it provides more information on them. For example, you can say “Victor’s dog is good” or “It’s a good car from the local dealership.” As an adverb, “well” is usually used to modify verbs. For instance, you can say “he sings well.” When figuring out whether to use “well” or “good” in the sentence, it is advisable that you consider whether you are describing an action (like hitting a baseball or playing the piano), or an object (like an anvil or a house).
There exists an exception, however, for this basic rule of thumb. “Good” can be applied to sentences such as “the cake looks good” or “I’m good,” since the involved verbs within the sentences are linking verbs which link a subject with its information. Plenty of words can be used as linking verbs, such as “appears,” “seems,” and “tastes.” The numerous conjugations of “to be,” such as “are,” “is,” “am,” and “was” can also be used this way. A group of these words can further be used as action verbs. However, when they are used as linking verbs, they don’t insinuate action, but just connect the subject and information.
If you are beginning to feel confused on the usage of “good” and “well” involving linking words, you can employ an easy method to determine when a verb acts as a linking verb. This can be done by replacing it with “are,” “is,” or “am” as appropriate. You can say it has been used as an action verb if the sentence ends up meaningless, and “well” can be used in such instances. On the other hand, if the sentence still makes sense, you settle on “good.” For instance, “the pudding looks good” still sounds perfect when you use “is” instead of “looks” to make “the pudding is good.” However, the sentence “the dog smelled the grass” will not make sense if you replace “smelled” with “is.” In this case, “smelled” does not act as a linking verb.
Most people usually over-correct when using “good” and “well.” Nonetheless, this is not necessary if you can remember that “good” applies to nouns and “well” can be used with verbs, provided the verbs are used in the linking capacity. Is the difference between good and well as complicated as it seemed?