"Bad" Versus "Badly"

Find out whether we side with Donald Trump or Cyndi Lauper.

Mignon Fogarty
4-minute read
Episode #219

Today's topic is “bad” versus “badly,” and to make it fun we have a celebrity smack down.

On this week's Celebrity Apprentice, Donald Trump corrected Cyndi Lauper. Here's a clip.

[audio clip]

Not only is Donald Trump not very nice, but he's also wrong. “I feel bad,” is perfectly acceptable. In fact, it's the best way to say it. Poor Cyndi Lauper.

Although Donald should feel bad about being a big ol' meanie, he shouldn't feel too bad about confusing “bad” and “badly” because it's a common error.

The short answer is that it is correct to say you feel bad when you are expressing an emotion.

Action Verbs

The reason it's easy to be confused is that “feel” can be a linking verb or an action verb. Action verbs are easy to understand. They describe actions. If I reach out and touch your cashmere sweater to see how soft it is, I've taken an action. I am feeling your sweater.

Linking Verbs

Linking verbs are more subtle. They describe emotions or states of being. If I am regretful about something and I want to describe my feelings, I'm describing my state of mind, not an action.

The verb “to be” is the linking verb most people know about. When you say “I am bad,” you're describing your state. You can think of linking verbs as linking a subject to its state. Forms of “to be” include “is,” “am,” “was,” “were,” and “are.”

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About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show. Her popular LinkedIn Learning courses help people write better to communicate better.