Monday, March 30, 2009

Language Peeves - Don't Feel Badly for Linking Verbs

A reader recently asked me to write about one of her language peeves. This reader can't stand it when a person says he or she is "feeling badly." This statement makes her think that the person has a problem with the sensitivity of his or her fingertips and therefore cannot feel things properly. Indeed, semantically, that is what "feeling badly" implies. The proper way for a person to express the feeling of being physically unwell is to use the statement "I 'feel bad'."

How can this be when feel is a verb and badly is an adverb and adverbs modify verbs?

The answer is that adverbs modify action verbs and feel is what is known as a linking verb. Semantically, linking verbs behave differently than action verbs. Here is a good example: another linking verb is am and that is why, when responding to the question "how are you," the response is "I am good" not "I am goodly."


Erin Davis said...

Hooray! Great explanation. I just covered this in my class on structure and development of the English language a few weeks ago.

OHN said...

I think my biggest peeve is people interchanging loose and lose.

(As in, I want to loose weight instead of lose weight...or loosing your mind instead of losing it...which is what happens to me when I read this mistake:)


Great post! :) But I have to say I cringed a teensy bit when I saw "I am good." Am I just extremely snobby/grammar purist-y for always trying to remember to say "I am well" or "I'm doing well"?

Carlos said...

This is one of my peeves as well; you did a great job of explaining it!

Laura Payne said...


I agree with you that "I am well" is the proper response to "how are you." Unfortunately, language evolution has turned "I am good" into an acceptable response (and almost the norm). In this particular post "good" versus "goodly" better illustrated the point I was trying to make than "well" versus "well-ly(?)" would have.

Thanks for being so puristic though. It wouldn't be fun to write a blog without this interaction.

Laura Payne said...

Carlos and Erin,
Thanks for the compliments.

Thanks for the peeve. I will add it to the collection for future posts.

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