"Bad" Versus "Badly"

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

Mignon Fogarty,
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 the Quick and Dirty Tips network and creator of Grammar Girl, which has been named one of Writer's Digest's 101 best websites for writers multiple times. The Grammar Girl podcast has also won Best Education Podcast multiple times in the Podcast Awards, and Mignon is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame. Mignon is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing" and six other books on writing. She has appeared as a guest on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and the "Today Show" and has been featured in the New York Times, Business Week, the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN.com, and more. She was previously the chair of media entrepreneurship in the Reynolds School of Journalism in Reno, NV. She hates the phrase "grammar nazi" and loves the word "kerfuffle." She has a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle and an M.S. in biology from Stanford University. Mignon believes that learning is fun, and the vast rules of grammar are wonderful fodder for lifelong study. 

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