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The word "well" is used in many different ways.

As an adjective, the word "well" means healthy or good. It’s often used with linking verbs, such as feel and be (am, is, are, was, were, etc.).

  • Charles feels well today.
  • Cindy doesn’t feel well.
  • All is well.
  • I’m well. (This means I feel well or Everything is okay.)

sick He doesn’t feel well. He feels sick.

As an adverb, "well" can mean very or good.

  • The tomato plants are doing well. (The adverb "well" describes how the plants are doing.)
  • She plays the piano well. ("Well" modifies the verb "play.")
  • You speak English very well. ("Well" modifies the verb "speak.")
  • The time we spent on learning this was well worth it. (It was a very good use of time.)
  • The project was not well done. (The quality was not very good.)
  • The customer ordered his steak well done. (This is a degree of cooking. Well done means that there isn’t any blood showing in the meat.)

Notice that the adverb form for this word can change to an adjective with the addition of a past participle and a hyphen connecting the two words:

  • As an employee, she’s paid well.
  • She’s a well-paid employee.
  • The children behave well.
  • They are well-behaved children.
  • He is a well-known person in this community. Everyone knows him.

Regarding the hyphen (-), generally you use it when "well" is part of a compound adjective, but you don’t need it when it is an adverb modifying an adjective.

  • He is a well-known author. He is well known.
  • Well-prepared students get good grades. They were well prepared.
  • This is a well-made car. It’s very well made.

Some combinations of words almost always include the hyphen:

  • They’re well-off. (They’re wealthy.)
  • This is for your well-being. (This is for your benefit.)
  • He’s very well-to-do. (He’s wealthy.)

The word "well" often introduces a question or sentence in everyday conversation. It’s not necessary to say "well," of course. It’s just leads into a statement or question:

  • Well, I have to be going now.
  • Well, that didn’t take very long.
  • Well, why didn’t they finish their assignments?
  • Well, what do we have here?


One more, completely different use for the word "well" is as a noun. When a well is a thing, it’s usually a place to gather liquid underground or from a container:

  • You can get water from a well.
  • An oil well produces petroleum.
  • An ink well is used when writing with a quill.


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May 23, 2015



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