Word Confusion: Bad versus Badly

Posted June 20, 2012 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 16 February 2018

People tend to confuse I feel bad with I feel badly. And it does make a world of difference.

If you should feel badly, it would indicate that you can’t feel things very well, you have a bad sense of touch, whereas if you feel bad, then you are upset.

Consider the following:
The road badly needs to be resurfaced.

It really needs resurfacing.

The road needs to be resurfaced badly.

Yeah, be sure and do a lousy job on it.

– Credit to: Robert Doran

She was hurt in a bad accident.

The accident was terrible.

She was hurt badly in the accident.

The accident wasn’t so terrible, but she almost lost her life.


Try not to feel too badly about it, you’re in some pretty bad company!

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

If you found this post on “Bad versus Badly” interesting, consider tweeting it to your friends. Subscribe to KD Did It, if you’d like to track this post for future updates.

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Bad Badly
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

Damaged front end of a Saturn four-door

“Crushed Saturn” is courtesy of a friend of MrFish’s under the GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 license(s), via Wikimedia Commons.

Ouch, ooh, that looks bad.

Ethan Hawke sports a badly bleached head of hair with the roots showing

“Ethan Hawke”, 2013, by Siebbi is under the CC BY 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons.

Yep, that’s some badly bleached hair, all right.

Part of Grammar:
Adjective; Adverb Adjective; Adverb
Of poor quality, inferior or defective

Unpleasant or unwelcome

Food decayed, putrid

Part of the body being injured, diseased, causing pain

Regretful, guilty, ashamed about something

Morally depraved

Worthless, not valid

[Informal] Good, excellent

[Informal] Badly

[Informal] Guilty, regretful

In an unsatisfactory way, inadequate, or unsuccessful way

To a great or serious degree, severely

It’s a bad diet.

That’s bad news.

The play got bad reviews.

With the electricity out, all the food will go bad.

I’ve got a bad back.

I feel bad.

If you should “feel badly”, it would indicate that you can’t feel things very well.

Don’t use bad language.

He wrote a bad check.

They want the baddest, best-lookin’ Corvette there is.

He beat her up real bad.

That TV program that was on last night was real bad.

I felt badly about my unfriendliness of the previous evening.

He should be too badly off.

I feel badly about your reaction to my remark.

It was a badly managed affair.

The war was going badly.

The building was badly damaged by fire.

I wanted a baby so badly.

It was a badly managed company.

Try not to think badly of me.

She realized she was behaving rather badly.

Things had begun to go badly wrong.

Adjective: bad-tempered, badass
Noun: badass, badassery, baddie, baddies, baddy, badlands, badmash, badness
Verb, transitive: bad-mouth
Adverb: worse, worst
History of the Word:
Middle English, perhaps representing Old English bǣddel

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

Grammar: When to use “bad” and “badly” in English by Alex with this video from Free English Video Lessons.

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