Do you feel good about that?

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Do you feel good about that?

Postby Ki » Tue Feb 21, 2006 12:31 pm

Correct me, please, if I'm wrong, but isn't "feel" a verb requiring an adjective to describe the speaker? I'm referring to the often (incorrectly) stated, "I feel badly about that." in llieu of "I feel bad about that."
"I feel badly" indicates a tactile problem, not one's emotional state, doesn't it?

Brazilian dude
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Postby Brazilian dude » Wed Feb 22, 2006 7:17 pm

From Merriam-Webster's Concise Dictionary of English Usage:
feel bad, feel badly It is a standard joke of usage writers to remark that someone who says "I feel badly" must be complaining about a defective sense of touch. This hoary witticism goes back at least as far as vizetelly 1906 and has been frequently repeated from Bierce 1909 to Kilpatrick 1984. Of course, they know and we know that people who say "I feel badly" simply mean they feel bad.

The continuing use of feel badly in competition with feel bad in spite of the long opposition of 20th-century schoolbooks is not easily explained. There are at least two important contributing factors.

First, the feel bad, feel badly choice is related to the feel good, feel well choice, where many people choose one or the other depending on whether thay are talking about a physical or mental state. Those who differentiate use feel well for health and feel good for emotion; many make the same distinction with bad and badly, choosing feel bad for health and feel badly for emotion. Here, for instance, is Harper 1985 panelist David Schoenbrun:

"I use 'I feel bad' to express a physical condition, but 'I feel badly' to express an emotional response."

Many others use badly for emotion:

We feel very badly about your only having one turkey - James Thurber, letter, Fall 1938

... I was laughing, but trying not to for some reason, feeling badly that I laughed, feeling ashamed - E. L. Doctorow, Loon Lake, 1979

But Bryant 1962 and others point out that the evidence of surveys shows that many people do not differentiate, and use badly for health as well as bad for the emotional state:

I do not feel so badly this forenoon - but I have bad nights - Walt Whitman, letter, 14 June 1864

Still, I feel bad about not having written you - E. B. White, letter, 23 June 1946

In fact Bryant sums up several surveys by saying they show usage to be almost evenly divided between feel bad and feel badly, regardless of whether health or emotional state is the topic. Our printed evidence, however, shows feel badly is used most often for the emotional state.

Second, Evans 1962 notes that some people may choose badly because they think "bad could only mean wicked." This is not an idle supposition. Bache 1869 explicitly prescribes the usage now decried as erroneous:

"He feels very bad," is sometimes said as descriptive of one's feeling very sick. To feel bad is to feel conscious of depravity; to feel badly is to feel sick.

It is possible that the association of bad with moral turpitude has survived in many American families and has strengthened the use of badly.

Conclusion: the controversy over feel bad and feel badly is founded in two opposing prescriptive standards - that of the 1869 handbook prescribing feel badly and that of the 20th-century schoobooks prescribing feel bad - it is unlikely to die out very soon. People will go on about as they do now- some differentiating bad and badly, some not, some avoiding badly, some not. You can see that the question is not as simple as it is often claimed to be, and, with those considerations in mind, make your own choice.

Brazilian dude

P.S. Just as a side note, Romance languages just allow for the adverb in this construction: Pt me sinto mal, Spme siento mal, It mi sento male, Fr je me sens mal, Cat em sento malament. Romanian rău can be both an adjective and an adverb: Mă simt rău.

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Postby pat1066 » Wed May 10, 2006 1:21 pm

The verb "to feel can be used as copulative verb, a transitive verb and an instransitive verb. Thus "to feel bad" means to be physically or emotionally distressed about something; "to feel badly" means to do the act of feeling poorly as in "I felt her forehead badly and did not detect her fever." (The last is a poor example; I found it hard to think one up.)


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