Badly Vs Bad: An Interesting Guide

You might be writing an essay and want to recall when to use badly vs bad in your arguments. Don’t worry, it’s essential when writing to determine when to use certain terms to produce a high quality output.

Badly Vs Bad: Everything You Need to Know

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Photo by Emmanuel Ikwuegbu on Unsplash

It’s a Common Mistake

Grammatical errors tend to misuse bad and badly. Bad is an adjective that can be used to modify nouns and pronouns.

Badly, like most words ending in “-ly”, is an adverb and is used to modify verbs. People find it confusing to use these words and distinguish them.

In casual talk, we hear bad and badly used incorrectly so often. Good news is, you can easily identify which word to use in your writing based on the function the word bad/badly refers to.

If, for instance, your friend Amanda just took a test, you find out that she has not done well. You say that “She has done the test badly”.

Sometimes such an expression occurs in casual speech, but it has to be carefully used in good writing.

“She did bad with the test”.

Bad is used in this sentence as it alters the noun “test”. If a noun depicts as “not good”, we use the word bad.

We would use badly if we rewrote these sentences so that verbs become modified.

It Has Something to Do with Linking Verbs

Verbs such as “to be” and “to feel” can link to adjectives because they describe a state rather than an action.

Generally speaking, what you want to describe is your negative mood or emotional state (I am feeling bad).

Such as, “I feel awful if you describe that you aren’t very successful at reaching out and feeling the things around you”.

It Has Something to Do with Adjective and Adverb Forms

Particular English adjectives and adverb forms of a word may not be used correctly because they mistakenly depict what they describe. The best example is the pair of words “bad” and “badly”.

Nouns and pronouns are modified by the word bad. Such as, she had a bad accident.

The word badly is an adverb which conveys the manner or extent of a verb’s action. Such as, she was badly injured in the accident.

Two words are commonly confused when they accompany sensory linking verbs taste, look, smell, and feel.

Adverbs are important when we use these verbs. We use sound frequently.

Whenever we use these verbs descriptively, they should be followed by adjectives.

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the use of badly with want and need was once considered incorrect. In this case it meant “very much” rather than “immorally.” However, this usage is still prevalent in formal contexts and is therefore considered standard.

We recognize, therefore, that bad and badly can both be used as adverbs with verbs of strong emotion (e.g. want, need). However, we prefer distinguishing them for greater precision.

To Wrap Up

Now, let’s look back on how the word bad and badly is used and how it changes throughout the sentence and story. It’s always a sign that something has gone wrong.

Using badly and bad depends on the other elements of the sentence you wish to add them. Which is why it’s essential to keenly look at the sentence and the linking verbs present before adding bad or badly.

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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