Real good vs Really good

I’ve been hearing ‘good’ used as an adverb on a few occasions lately that this morning, I decided to poll, on Facebook, my teacher friends in Hong Kong on their acceptance of a sentence like ‘It describes me very good’ (as opposed to ‘It describes me very well’).

I didn’t get much response, but a native-speaking teacher from the UK flatly rejected it.

This afternoon, I was running a workshop for the English Department of a primary school, and I took the opportunity to poll the 18 teachers present on their acceptance of the usage. Would they accept a sentence like ‘She sings very good’?

About 60% of them rejected it, while the remaining 40% would accept it. I then invited the native-speaking teacher present to give her view. She is from New Zealand, and she found a sentence like ‘She sings very good’ highly unnatural. When pressed for a decision, she did not accept it.

Of course, that was not a large-scale survey. Nevertheless, it is interesting to compare the response of the 2 native-speaking teachers with that of the ‘local’, nonnative, ones. For this particular usage, it seems that nonnative-speaking teachers are more accommodating than native-speaking ones.

Could that be because the nonnative teachers have a higher level of language awareness for English as a second language than the native-speaking teachers, so that some of them have already noticed the AmE variant? This is not entirely impossible. In fact, writers in language awareness, such as Ronald Carter, Scott Thornbury, and Stephen Andrews, have asserted that nonnative teachers have an advantage here – they have learnt, and are learning, English as a second language, and hence will be more sensitive to features and variations in the target language, whereas native-speaking teachers will continue to operate within the variety of English that they are familiar with.

Or, is it because as second language users, we are exempt from the cultural baggage that sometimes hinder native speakers’ receptivity to other varieties of their mother-tongue? We don’t have preconceived ideas of what constitutes ‘good English’.

But of course, I have to guard against jumping to conclusion based on this small sample of informants.

Tonight, I looked up good in 2 online dictionaries: the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (for BrE), and Merriam Webster Dictionary (for AmE).

The Longman Dictionary has included the Adverb usage for ‘good’, labelling it as informal American English, and cautioning that some people will find it unacceptable.

Merriam Webster has the following passage on the usage for ‘good’ as an adverb:


Adverbial good has been under attack from the schoolroom since the 19th century. Insistence on well rather than good has resulted in a split in connotation: well is standard, neutral, and colorless, while good is emotionally charged and emphatic. This makes good the adverb of choice in sports <“I’m seeing the ball real good” is what you hear — Roger Angell>. In such contexts as <listen up. And listen good — Alex Karras> <lets fly with his tomatoes before they can flee. He gets Clarence good — Charles Dickinson> good cannot be adequately replaced by well. Adverbial good is primarily a spoken form; in writing it occurs in reported and fictional speech and in generally familiar or informal contexts.

Examples of GOOD

Things have been going good lately.
The team is doing good this year.
“How did you hit the ball today?” “Good.”
The other team whipped us good.


With the boundary between spoken English and written English continuing to blur, my hunch is that good being used as an adverb will become more and more popular.

For now, I will add that Merriam Webster has explained the issue real good.


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