Bad vs. Badly

We often hear people or read things that say “I feel badly” or sentences that are similar. Have you ever wondered when you use the word “bad” or when you use “badly”? Well, we have and we figured it was worth addressing. In this post we will discuss the difference in these words when used in a sentence.

“Bad” is a verb. “Badly” is an adverb. This makes all the difference in their meaning and their place in sentence structure.
If I say that “I feel badly”, it is not a very accurate statement. The verb “feel” means to touch or to “have a sensation of (something), other than by sight, hearing, smell or taste. An example of this is “feel a stabbing pain”. So basically, if I say that I “feel badly”, I am saying that I “touch badly”.
A person pointed out at one time that most people don’t say that they”feel badly” or “feel sadly”, so why would anyone “feel badly”? This makes perfect sense. “Feel” is a verb and “badly is an adverb. Adverbs modify verbs so it just doesn’t make sense to use it in this manner.
Here are a few sentences to show examples of correct and incorrect usage:
Incorrect: I feel badly.
Correct: I feel bad.
Incorrect: I smell badly.
Correct: I smell bad.
Times when the use of “badly” does not follow the rules above are:
“You behaved badly in the movie theatre.”
“The move went badly.”
The misconception with “bad” vs. “badly” is that in most cases you are just fine using an adverb after a verb but with this particular verb and adverb you need to watch it. We must point out that different people have different views on English grammar and usage rules.