You can use both ‘good’ and ‘well’ to talk about the quality of something or someone, so ‘good’ and ‘well’ have a similar meaning. However, they are not interchangeable so it is important to know when to use one or the other.
But before we dive into discussing the difference between the two, let’s look at two examples.
He has always been a good learner.
They performed the task well.
In the first sentence it would not be possible to use ‘well’ instead of ‘good’, and in the second sentence using ‘good’ instead of ‘well’ would also be wrong. So what is the difference between the two?
‘Good’ is an adjective, and you use it to describe a noun. Like in ‘ My brother said it was a good book.’ In this sentence the adjective ‘good’ says something about the quality of the noun ‘book.’
In the sentence ‘The weather was good today’, ‘good’ is used for the same reason. It describes the quality of ‘the weather’ and ‘weather’ is a noun.
You usually use ‘Well’ as an adverb to describe ‘How’ something happens. However, you can also use ‘well’ as and adjective to talk about ‘health’.
So in the sentence ‘The new computer worked well’, you use the adverb ‘well’ to talk about ‘How’ the computer worked and in the second sentence ‘He couldn’t come because he didn’t feel well’, ‘well’ you use ‘well’ as an adjective to talk about the ‘health of ‘he’.
When you talk about the senses, so about ‘ looking, feeling , and tasting, etc.’, you have to choose between ‘good’ and ‘well’ based on what you are trying to say. In the example ‘You smell good this morning’, you use good as an adjective to describe what ‘You’ smells like, but in the sentence ‘You smell well for someone with a cold’, you need to use the adverb ‘well’ to describe ‘How’ the quality is of the person’s sense of smell. Also note that ‘smell’ is used as a ‘verb’ here, because you talk about how good ‘You’ is at ‘smelling’ things.
The following example ‘The woman looked good for her age’ is similar. You use the adjective ‘good’, to talk about how the woman (which is a noun) looked.
In the sentence ‘She had to look at the painting well to see the details’, you use the adverb well, to describe ‘how’ she had to look at the painting.
So, when it comes to using verbs for the senses in combination with ‘good’ and ‘well’ you have to choose based on what you want to say.
When choosing between ‘Good’ and ‘Well’ when talking about ‘health’ you always need to choose ‘well’, also if you are using verbs that refer to ‘the senses’. So you would say
‘She didn’t look well when she came back from school.’ When you want to comment on her health. You use ‘well’ in the sentence ‘I don’t feel well. I think I’m coming down with a cold.’ for the same reason.
Finally, when choosing between ‘good’ and ‘well’ when talking about a person emotions, you always use ‘good’, also when using verbs used for the senses.
So in the sentence ‘He doesn’t feel good about having to steal’, you use the adjective ‘good’ to describe the emotions of ‘he’ in relation to having to steal.
In ‘I felt so good after winning the race.’ You use ‘good’ to describe the emotions that ‘I’ felt after winning the race.
This means that when answering the question ‘How are you?’ you answer by saying
‘I feel well’ if you feel you are in good health and you answer by saying ‘I feel good’ if you are experiencing positive emotions.
And that is how you choose between ‘Good’ and ‘Well’.