Well well well

Overheard last week at the Coffee Bean in Studio City:

Male barista (early 20’s): Good morning!
Female customer (with baby in stroller): Hi, how are you?
Barista: I’m doing well, thanks.
Customer: Oh! I love that you said “well!” You know the difference between and adjective and an adverb!
Molly (putting sugar in iced coffee): I feel sorry for your baby.

(Ok, that’s an alternate ending featured in the director’s cut.)

Now aside from the troubling condescension of the woman in our little vignette, this struck a nerve with me because of the whole “well vs. good” issue. Now, in the case I am 100% sure that “I’m doing well” is the proper grammatical response because he’s describing how he’s doing, thus requiring the adverb “well.” But I have always been bothered by the response “I’m well” to the question “How are you?”. Why? I’ve always been a stickler for grammar myself, but something about “I’m well” has always made me cringe.

In my mind, using “well” is wrong because you’re using an adverb to describe an object. You wouldn’t say “I’m badly” or “I’m swimmingly.” I guess it works if you mean it as opposed to being sick, but that seems like the only appropriate use.

But before I go on about this anymore, I should admit that I did a little internet research and found a solid argument for “I’m well.” According to some etiquette lady…

Remember that good is an adjective and well is an adverb. One exception to this rule is that you can use well as an adjective to refer to health or general well-being.

Realize that when you respond “I’m good” to the question “How are you?” you are telling the person that you are beneficial, kind, favorable or perhaps virtuous (depending on how the listener interprets your answer).

Ok. I get that. The problem is, I still hate “I’m well.” And I’ll continue to refuse to say it, instead saying “I’m doing well” or “Do you really care or can I just order my coffee?”. But if I just held a door open for someone I’ll enjoy a well-earned “I’m good.”

  •  Anonymous

    The grammar for “I’m well” is hidden in the contraction. The noun in the sentence is “I,” the verb (contracted) is “am,” and “well” is an adverb modifying the verb “am,” specifying the condition of the state of being.

  •  dwayne twill

    Wow – reading this post doesn’t make me feel good – I mean – well.

  • Adam875

    This bugs the crap out of me too. Especially “I feel well,” which would seem to mean your nerves are working properly. I’ve checked and apparently this is okay because “well” can actually be both an adjective and an adverb. But it causes the common over-correction “I feel badly.” Which definitely only can mean that you are numb.

    I’m such a dork. I feel bad about that…

  •  Dwight


    The grammar nazis are alligned against you.

    Nothing wrong with “I’m well.”

    Maybe it’s better to find your inner zen and go to your happy place on those rare occasions when people say the phrase correctly.

  • Chuckie

    Miss Molly

    I always give a numerical value for how I am. Somedays I’m a 4 others I am an 8. Today I am about a seven. This normally causes a few disgusted looks and even some intellectual conversation sometimes. Did I say I was a seven today? I lied. I’m really an 8.


  •  Anonymous

    Just wanted to say hi and ask do you have any future projects planned other than commercials? Have a good weekend……..

  • Tom

    I just think it was funny that you felt sorry for the future corrections the baby will have to endure.