The Grammarphobia Blog

Do you feel “bad” or badly”?

Q: Please settle something for me (and others) once and for all. Which is grammatically accurate? “I feel (‘bad’ or ‘badly’) about revealing your imprecise use of the English language.”

My tendency is to say “badly” is the answer. However, this question appeared in an MSN.com “grammar quiz,” and the “correct” answer provided was “bad.” Could you please explain?

A: When you’re describing an activity, like running or swimming or playing, use “badly,” as in “Roger runs badly.” When you’re describing a condition or a passive state, like how someone feels or seems or looks or smells, use “bad,” as in “Roger smelled bad after the race.” If Roger smelled badly, he’d have something wrong with his nose.

So, in answer to your question, the correct sentence is “I feel bad about revealing your imprecise use of the English language.”