Commonly Confused Word Pairs: Feeling bad (not badly)

June 19, 2008: Issue 244

     I feel so bad about your struggle to find size-2 jeans.

That statement might not be heartfelt, but it is grammatically correct. Why not say “I feel badly”? Because badin this sentence doesn’t modify the verb. It describes the condition of the subject, I.

It’s the same reason you say “I am happy,” not “I am happily.” Or “The room seems bright,” not “The room seems brightly.”

The key is the part of the sentence being modified.

Is it the verb?
The cat appeared slowly, smile first.
(Slowly modifies appeared.)

Or the subject?
The cat appeared slow—until it caught sight of the laser pointer beam.
(Slow modifies cat.)

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