Grammar check – bad or badly?

Image: Pixabay

Which sentence do you think is correct, A or B?

A. I feel bad about spilling wine on your rug.
B. I feel badly about spilling wine on your rug.

If you chose B, think again. It’s A. You may believe that bad should get the “ly” treatment. It’s an adverb, right? Well, when you use it descriptively, it should be an adjective. Therefore say, “I feel bad about spilling that red wine all over your expensive white rug!”

Think of it this way.

If you say you feel badly, you’re really saying that
your body is having trouble feeling the things around you
. does a great job explaining this rule in more detail. The trick is to understand how to use these four sense words: taste, look, smell and feel.

Here’s what they say:

When we use these verbs actively, we should follow them with adverbs.

When we use these verbs descriptively, we should follow them with adjectives.


I feel bad about having said that.

I am not feeling with fingers in the above example; I am describing my state of mind, so the adjective is used (no ly).

She feels badly since her fingers were burned.

She feels with her fingers here so the adverb (ly form) is used.

You can check out the rest here on GrammarBook. There’s even a little quiz to help you get the rule right.

And if sometimes you still aren’t sure, do what I do. I always think of this book to get it straight!

I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron


Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

19 thoughts on “Grammar check – bad or badly?

  1. This is one of those things that set my teeth on edge — when someone (usually someone who is otherwise perfectly articulate) says they feel badly about something they did or something that happened. I have learned, however, that in that moment nobody wants a helpful tip about the difference between linking verbs and action verbs. So I just keep it to myself. But it makes me feel bad 🙂

  2. I cringe when I see bad grammar, not that I don’t make mistakes though. It’s just something that bothers me, such as in ‘your’ and ‘you’re’, etc. Anyway, this is so good to know, Barbara, because it’s one of those situations when I find myself balancing on a tight rope wondering which way to go. There are a few of these situations in the writing universe that stop many in their writing tracks. 🙂 Anyway, thank you for sharing!
    Have a good weekend, Lauren

  3. I don’t know if I’ve ever used the word “badly.” It just doesn’t sound right. I think I remember a Grammar Girl podcast on this and her examples to compare the two are hilarious.

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