by Michael Moreno
Using “bad” and “badly” correctly can be challenging, but all you need to do to pick the right word is look carefully at the role that word plays in your sentence. You have two options: adjective (bad) or adverb (badly). Word substitutions can help to make your decision easy!
Here’s an example of how to properly use “bad,” an adjective:
- Cynthia said she felt bad about the whole misunderstanding.
In this case, “bad” describes her emotional state (not how she feels physically). You could replace “bad” with any number of adjectives describing her emotional state, such as “happy,” “conflicted” or “surprised,” and the sentence would make sense.
Meanwhile, here’s an example of how to properly use “badly,” an adverb:
- The misunderstanding was handled badly by the boss.
In this case, “badly” describes how the situation was handled, and “handled” is a verb. Again, you could replace “badly” with other adverbs, such as “strategically,” “superbly” or “masterfully.”
If you can’t right away figure out what part of speech you need to use, replace “bad” or “badly” with another word and see how the sentence works. Let’s do that for the above examples:
- Original: Cynthia said she felt bad (adj.) about the whole misunderstanding. ß Correct
- Word swap: Cynthia said she felt strategically (adv.) about the whole misunderstanding. Strange, huh?
- Word swap: Cynthia said she felt confused (adj.) about the whole misunderstanding. Makes sense!
- Original: The misunderstanding was handled badly (adv.) by the boss.
- Word swap: The misunderstanding was handled fantastic (adj.) by the boss. Strange...
- Word swap: The misunderstanding was handled cleverly (adv.) by the boss. Makes sense!