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I Feel Badly or I Feel Bad? Which One Is Better?

Bad vs. Badly

Often I hear the word "badly" used incorrectly. For example, "I feel badly for him because he didn't make the cut." Most grammarians believe that this statement is incorrect. In this case bad is an adjective that we use with the linking verbs: feel, is, seems, looks, or appears.

To feel badly implies that your sense of touch is not right. When you are referring to a sense of touch, then badly is used as an adverb describing the verb to feel or touch.

The correct way to say the sentence is, "I feel bad for him because he didn't make the cut."


  1. I feel bad that I wasn't able to make the concert.
  2. The teacher felt bad that her student wasn't able to pass the exam.
  3. She burned her hands taking the pie out of the oven, and thus felt badly and couldn't distinguish between soft and rough.
  4. He damaged the nerve endings in an accident, and now feels badly. [He probably also feels (emotionally) bad.]

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of American Usage's Take on Feel Bad vs. Feel Badly

"The controversy over feel bad and feel badly has been going on for more than a century, and since its beginnings lie in two opposing prescriptive standards—that of the 1869 handbook prescribing feel badly and that of the 20th-century schoolbooks 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 a s simple as it is often claimed to be, and, with those considerations in mind, make your own choice. Whatever it is, you will have some worthy comrades and some worthy opponents."

Questions & Answers

Question: I feel bad or I feel badly. Which one is correct?

Answer: "I feel bad" is correct.

Question: "I felt badly for John when he fell off the cliff!" Is this correct in terms of sentence structure?

Answer: No, this is correct: "I felt bad for John when he fell off the cliff!"

Any comments, thoughts or questions?

notso on July 11, 2020:

Telis. I feel sadly that you feel badly. I wish I could feel gladly for you. I hope my comment won't make you feel madly.

telis on April 20, 2020:

I consider "I feel bad" being wrong. "bad" can go only with be, i.e. you ARE bad, as you are nice, but it CANNOT refer to feelings as it it is with I feel bad, that is I feel badly.

Queen E on June 16, 2012:

Follow international English grammatical rules not American english.

Gary Rector on March 20, 2011:

_Poorly_ is not a colloquialism. It's a perfectly standard English adjective meaning 'indisposed' or 'in poor condition healthwise.'

Aficionada from Indiana, USA on November 10, 2010:

Great Hub, and I quite agree with your comments about the difference in meaning between feeling bad and feeling badly. As I learned it, the verbs that express senses (look, taste, smell, sound, feel - not sure if there are others) are followed by an adjective as a verb complement. You look marvelous; this tastes good; it smells bad; that sounds great; I feel funny.

I had never heard or read before that "feel badly" had such a long history. Thank you for including that information!

moli on May 15, 2010:

Trump was incorrect!

Laura on May 06, 2010:

I'm so happy to see this. Donald Trump corrected a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice last week who said "I felt bad for her," and I thought he was incorrect. Excellent.

Hypnotape on August 29, 2009:

Feeling poorly is a colloquial usage meaning to be ailing or to feel ill. She's been feeling poorly lately.

jeremy on August 12, 2009:

I'm sure it would be better, in the sense that it would be more clear, since we have misconceptions about what it means to feel badly. However, those examples are given to teach what "badly" means given the context. Giving an example using "feel poorly" would not be relevant to this discussion.

Evergreen on June 24, 2009:

Wouldn't it be better to say "she felt poorly" instead of "she felt badly" when referring to someone's lacking sense of touch?

Niles on April 24, 2009:

How about difference between Among and Amongst? Do they replace each other?

Trahelyk on July 16, 2008:

Rules of punctuation are essentially arbitrary, so the only legitimate "rule" would be one derived from a recognized and relevant style guide. Incidentally, the one I use, _AMA Manual of Style_ (an American guide, albeit with limited international relevance), provides logical guidance for placement of periods with quotation marks: "Place closing quotation marks outside commas and periods, inside colons and semicolons. Place question marks, dashes, and exclamation points inside quotation marks only when they are part of the quoted material. If they apply to the whole statement, place them outside the quotation marks."

If I had my preference, I would apply the second part of that convention to periods as well. Unfortunately, AMA doesn't care about my preference, which makes me feel bad.

Julia on January 29, 2008:

Right...end quotation marks following the period is more of an American standard...end quotation marks preceding the period is more of an English standard...

Misha from DC Area on November 11, 2007:

Thanks Robin, you keep educating me :)

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on August 30, 2007:

Hi Bob,

That is actually a rule that is up for debate. I actually prefer not to put my periods inside quotation marks in some instances, although I know that this is a common rule followed in the U.S. Thanks for the comment! Grammar discussions are always fun. ;)

Bob on August 30, 2007:

You need to put the period inside the quotation marks of the above sentences, but your examples are otherwise correct.