"Bad" Versus "Badly"

Find out whether we side with Donald Trump or Cyndi Lauper.

Mignon Fogarty,
April 29, 2010
Episode #219

Page 3 of 3

A Smelly Problem

Let's do one more example with the word “smell,” which is another verb that can be a linking verb or an action verb.

You can exist in a state of being smelly, or you can actively smell something—a luscious chocolate or a horrible old sock.

If you want to describe your state, then “smell” is a linking verb. You could write “That smells bad.” Notice again how you can replace the linking verb with “is” and the sentence still works. “That smells bad” becomes “That is bad.”

But if you want to describe the action of smelling, “smell” is an action verb. Maybe you have an old dog who can't smell anymore and doesn't find treats you hide for him. You could explain to a friend by saying “He smells badly.” Notice how that sentence doesn't work if you replace “smells” with “is.” You get “He is badly,” which doesn't make sense, so it confirms that you aren't dealing with a linking verb, so the adverb “badly” is the right choice.


Linking verbs can be replaced with forms of “to be” and you modify them with adjectives. Action verbs can't be replaced with forms of “to be,” and you modify them with adverbs.

Fear no real estate mogul giving grammar rebukes.

Today's episode is sponsored by—me! My book The Grammar Devotional makes a great graduation gift whether graduates are going on to college or heading right into the workforce.

Thanks to Kristin Thiel for sending me the link to the clip from Celebrity Apprentice that I used at the beginning of this show.


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