Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's All Well and Good

It was Friday night at 2am. My husband was asleep on the couch and I was watching TV. All of a sudden, there was a knock on the door. The first knock was followed by louder knocks, which finally woke up my husband. We looked at each other, confused, maybe even a little frightened. The knocks were followed by strange voices identifying themselves as room service.

My husband angrily got up and looked through the peephole. I relaxed when I saw him smile. Turns out it was just some of our very own highly intoxicated friends who were returning from a bar down the street and needed a place to crash.

Usually, I like those kinds of spontaneous visits, but not this time. I was watching Rhinestone, the movie starring Dolly Parton and Sylvester Stallone in which country singer Dolly Parton must turn cab driver Stallone into a country singer in two weeks or else she has to extend her contract singing for sleazy Freddy and sleep with him! It was at the end, the part where Stallone was proving himself onstage, and I just wanted to be left in peace to watch Stallone sway back and forth on stage singing (I use that term loosely) country music wearing this outfit:

It’s not often that one gets to see Stallone in rhinestone fringe. Usually, he’s some kind of action hero.

In that way, verbs are like Stallone.

Like we do with Stallone, we tend to associate verbs with action. When we think verb, we think of such words as run, jump, fight, eat, sit, and swim.

But, as I mentioned in the last post, some verbs aren’t about action at all. One type of verb that doesn’t show action is a linking verb, also known as a copulative verb (hee hee hee).

To review, linking verbs connect the subject of the verb to additional information about the subject, often an adjective. Some common linking verbs are to be verbs such as is, am, was, and were.

Ex. Stallone’s outfit is pretty.

Others linking verbs are seem and become:

Ex. Even in their drunken state, my friends seemed surprised that I was voluntarily watching Rhinestone.

Some verbs are versatile. In certain contexts, they are action verbs and in some they are linking verbs, such as look, feel, and smell.

Linking: Dolly Parton looked great.

Action: I looked adoringly at Dolly.

Why does all of this matter?

Because it helps us come to terms with a very important issue: how to answer the question “How are you?”

Is it "I am good" or "I am well"?

Some people freak out when we say, “I am good” instead of "I am well" because they think that a verb should be followed by an adverb, and well is an adverb.

BUT… since am is a linking verb, it is appropriate for an adjective, like good, to follow it.

Therefore, it’s perfectly correct to say, “I am good.”

It’s also okay to say, “I am well.” However, when we use well in this context, it’s as the adjective well, which means healthy, not the adverb well, which means in a good or satisfactory manner.

When someone asks me how I am, I actually prefer to respond, “I am fine.” If you know what I mean. Wink.

Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips. http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/good-versus-well.aspx.


Theresa Milstein said...

I forgot all about this movie. Yeah, the plot sounds plausible.

Jeffrey Beesler said...

I am happy to know that I can follow my verbs with adjectives in certain cases. These tips of yours just keep getting better, absolutely.

Gorilla Bananas said...

You might even say "I feel fine", which has the added merit of being a song by The Beatles. "I am good" could mean "I am a good person" - I wonder if anyone has ever meant it in that way.

Joanna St. James said...

I seriously could have gone through life never knowing this movie exists, dolly P and Stallone *shudders*
I just answer very well thank you but then people say I speak like a secretary, so maybe my answer is not the best.

Janet Johnson said...

You are fine, chica!

And I'd seen the cover for the movie, but had no idea of the plot. I may just have to watch it for the sheer humor of it. :)

Hart Johnson said...

*giggles at being busted watching embarrassing movie*--nice way to lead into the examples! All these action words...

This is a DIFFERENT distinction, but related; We had Colombian nieghbors for a while and the mom, one day was listening to me say something and she stopped me: "I say listen, you say hear, what is difference". Try explaining THAT to someone who doesn't speak much English. I said that listening was active, and took trying, but hearing just happened, when there was a noise--but it really made me think about some things we take for granted in language.

And thanks for the reminder that those senses can be active or linking... they are on the linking list, so i sometimes forget that...

M.J. Nicholls said...

I say "I am good" or "I'm good". I usually contract. Contractions are healthy among unpregnant men.

notesfromnadir said...

Willingly watching Rhinestone? :)

Yeah, that can get annoying when people use well willy nilly w/ no comprehension of the meaning. But I've heard much, much worse!

Guyana-Gyal said...

Whenever I say, "I'm good," I'm just waiting for the other person to ask, "Just how good ARE you?"

Actually, I'm not sure what I'd say...