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Informal English: well as an intensifier

partsofspeechHave you ever come across sentences like ‘that’s well interesting!’ or ‘I am well aware of the consequences’?

You have probably heard similar sentences if you’ve ever lived in the UK. Indeed this particular use of ‘well’ is typically British and not common at all in American English.

WELL AS AN INTENSIFIER

In the above examples ‘well’ is used as an intensifier to mean ‘very‘ (‘that’s very interesting!’) or ‘fully‘ (‘I’m fully aware of the consequences’) with the aim of adding extra emphasis to what is being said.

When used as an intensifier, ‘very’ is followed by an adjective (interesting / aware).

Notice that this use is typical of colloquial and informal English. Don’t use it in formal writing!

a: ‘I’ve missed the bus by one minute and now I have to walk to work!’
b: ‘That’s well annoying!’

WELL AS AN ADVERB

Since we’re at it, it’s important to mention that in its most common use, ‘well’ falls into the category of adverbs like in the sentence ‘she can cook well’. In this instance, well is an adverb in that it describes the way an action (cook) is performed (well).

On a final note, ‘well’ can also be an adjective, that is a descriptive word, like in ‘I don’t feel very well’ or ‘I’m not well’.

So I hope that next time you hear someone using ‘well’ in this way it won’t puzzle you anymore.
I also suggest that you start using well as an intensifier every now and then, it will make you sound more ‘British’ 🙂
Talk soon,
Deb

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Confusing adverbs/adjectives: do I smell bad or badly?

bad-armpit-odor

The right answer is bad, meaning that your smell is not good (and so go and have a shower please! 🙂 )

If you said ‘you smell badly’ you would be saying that the person you’re talking to doesn’t know how to or can’t smell properly.

The same way you’d say ‘you look good in that dress!’ and not ‘you look well in that dress’. Like in the sentence above ‘you smell bad’, also in this case the focus is NOT on HOW we perform the action (‘to look’ and ‘to smell’) .

This is why you say:

I feel bad for not coming to your wedding (= here I’m not discussing whether I’m good or bad at feeling stuff, I’m just saying that as a result of feeling something I’m sad)
He looked sad last time I saw him (=he seemed sad)

The adverb ‘badly’ says something about how you carry out an action. For instance, you’d be correct in saying ‘John behaves badly at school’ because you’re talking about the way John is carrying out an action (‘to behave’).

So this is why you say:

He looked at me sadly(=he looked at me in a sad way)

HOWEVER, you could say ‘I smell badly’ if you meant that you’re not good at smelling things maybe because of a cold.

I hope I’ve explained it well enough.
Talk soon,
Deb