Derek, over at Eats Bugs (LOVE that blog title! Don’t you?) asked that we clear up the whole feeling bad / feeling badly thing. He says:
My favorite grammatical conundrum comes from the word ‘bad.’ “I feel bad,” as in emotions or health or sympathy; “I feel badly,” as in my sense of touch is broken. Are either of these correct?
You’ve got it exactly right, Derek, and here’s why:
The best way to figure out which form of the word “bad” to use is to figure out what, exactly, the word is modifying. In the sentence “I feel badly (about something – say, stepping on your toe)”, for example, a lot of people think that badly is functioning as an adverb. It’s got the “ly” ending, we’re talking about how I feel, so it should be an adverb, right?
Well, no. As Derek correctly points out, we’ve got to clarify that we’re not talking about the ability to feel but, rather, the quality of a sensibility. What we’re really doing is modifying the actual feeling – the noun, the concept, the emotion – and not the act, or verb, of feeling. Adjectives modify nouns, so the correct form of the word is “bad.” Saying that one feels badly is, as Derek illustrates above, saying that one’s ability to feel is somehow impaired or broken, as in, “my uncle’s stroke impairs his ability to feel. He feels badly and, as a result, burns himself a lot.”
**author’s note – while I love the graphic I’ve put up here, I’m annoyed that the second contraction isn’t capitalized properly. I suspect that might be part of the joke, but I wanted you all to know – especially given the theme of this week’s posts – that the error didn’t sneak by me…