"Bad" Versus "Badly"

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

Mignon Fogarty,
April 29, 2010
Episode #219

Page 2 of 3

Verbs That Go Both Ways

Verbs that describe senses such as “feel,” “smell,” and “taste” can be linking verbs or action verbs, and to know which words modify them, you have to know the difference. That's because you use adverbs to describe action verbs, and adjectives to describe linking verbs.

If I am having trouble getting my fingers to your sweater, I am feeling badly. “Badly” is the adverb that describes how I'm doing with the feeling action.

If Cyndi Lauper is anxious about naming the person Donald Trump should fire, she feels bad. “Bad” is the adjective that describes the state of her emotions.

The Quick and Dirty Tip

Can you replace “feel” with “am”? If so, choose the adjective and write “I feel bad.”

Fortunately, there's a quick and dirty tip to help you figure out whether you're dealing with an action verb or a linking verb if Donald Trump ever calls you out on national TV.

Remember that I said the verb “to be” is a linking verb? The trick is to use it to test your sentence to see if you can replace the verb in question with a form of “to be,” such as “is” or “was.” If you can, you're dealing with a linking verb. If you can't, you're dealing with an action verb.

In Cyndi's sentence, you can replace “feel” with “am.” “I feel bad” becomes “I am bad.” Since you can make the verb swap, you know that “feel” is a linking verb in that sentence and is describing her state. “Bad” is an adjective, and linking verbs link adjectives back to the subject they are describing. 

But in Donald's sentence, you can't replace “feel” with “am.” “I feel badly” becomes “I am badly,” which doesn't make any sense. Since you can't make the swap, you know that “feel” is an action verb in that sentence; it's describing an action. It means there's a problem with the action of feeling, but that isn't what Cyndi meant.


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