Lexie’s Back

Oh dear!

I was hoping it wouldn’t come down to this so soon! This is a “bad” versus “badly” letter…“Bad” versus “badly” is a horrible, frustrating battle, with both sides ending up bloody.

A kind reader from the great Tundra of Alaska writes:

Dear Lexie,

This may not be the biggest dilemma which will require your assistance, but it has been a thorn in my side for some time now.

When I wish to express regret about something, for example: eating all your Funyuns, do I say: “I feel badly about eating all your Funyuns,” or do I say:

“I feel bad about eating all your Funyuns.” It seems to me that “feeling badly” implies that the sensitivity in my fingers is impaired, or that I am not emotionally functional–which, in fact, could not be further from the truth.

“I feel bad” seems like it should be right, but it sounds so wrong.

If it is proper to say “I feel badly,” then why doesn’t anyone say “I feel goodly?”

Am I doomed to a life of saying: “I rue the day I ate the last of your onion flavored snack food?”

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this.

-Grammar is not so Fun-yuns

Dear GINF,

Simply put:

Badly is wrong.

I feel bad is correct.

Here’s the grammar rub for you.

Bad is to good as badly is to well.

Bad and good are adjectives, while badly and well are adverbs.

Bad and good describe the noun, while badly and well describe the verb.

So, for example, in the statement: I feel bad about eating his Funyuns, “bad” is describing “I”. You could say: “I am bad person because I ate his Funyuns.” Whereas, in the statement: I feel badly about eating his Funyuns, “badly” is describing “feel”.

You could say: “I feel badly because I’m allergic to onions and eating all his Funyuns made my fingers numb.”

See what I mean?

It’s a slippery and tricky slope.

On the flip side, when describing feelings I guess you’d want to say things like:

I feel good, but I am well.

(You can of course be good or be bad, but these reflect your character and thus are still describing a noun; being well is still reflecting the state of being, which is the verb [so you need an adverb].)

Verbs and nouns can be tough, but compared to gerunds and participles, they are a piece of cake!

I hope you learned something today. I certainly did. And I feel goodly about it.

Actually, goodly is an adjective. So although the definition doesn’t fit here (large amount or comely), a person can feel goodly.

Damn you Webster!

Now I should do my homework and see how many punctuation mistakes I’ve made in this column. A fair few, I’d imagine…

Keep ‘em coming!

-L.

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