The Grammarphobia Blog

Goodness gracious!

Q: Target’s “Do Good” donation program makes me crazy. Shouldn’t it be “Do Well”? I was taught that an adverb, not an adjective, should modify a verb like “do.” If Target really wants to “do good,” it should use proper English.

A: In the Target ad, the word “good” is a noun, not an adjective, and the company is using it correctly. Of course, it would be an adjective if Target had suggested that people “Do Good Works (or Deeds),” but using it as a noun (“Do Good”) is OK.

In fact, the phrase “do good” (in which “good” is a noun meaning that which is good, or the opposite of the noun “evil”), dates back to the year 825, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. And it has appeared in print steadily over the last 1,200 years or so.

“Good” is also a noun in expressions like “he’s no good,” “all to the good,” “this isn’t any good,” “deliver the goods,” “dry goods,” “we’ve got the goods on these crooks,” “happiness is the ultimate good,” and so on.

All of those expressions, and many more, are on target.

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