So I got a mail from someone the other day. He wrote, “Hello! You have an entire website on grammar rules, and yet, you say something as fundamentally wrong as ‘I’m good’ when you are asked how you are. Are you aware you are making a major grammatical error when you say that?”

Am I now? Well the bad news (for the person who mailed me) is that I am not making any error at all. It is perfectly fine to say “I’m good” when you are asked how you are, because I am going to tell you how to defend your response when you are asked “How good are you?” in reply.

The more common thing to say in response to “How are you?” is “I am well, thank you.” When you are saying that, you are using well as an adverb. What is adverb? It is a word that defines an action verb. An action verb is simply a verb that denotes action: run, play, swim, read, speak etc. So when you are using the adverb well you are describing the action verb: I speak well, he plays well, she sings well, it reads well, they cook well and so on.

Like we have action verbs, we also have linking verbs. These, better known as copulative verbs, are verbs that join two words to make sense of a sentence. For example, when I say “He is lost” I am linking the words He and lost with the copulative verb is. Likewise, other linking verbs are appear, become, look, seem, feel, felt etc. When you say “He appears lost” you are linking the words he and lost with appears.

The reason I told you about Copulative Verbs is, when you use an adjective (something regular like good) after a copulative verb, it becomes what is called a predicate adjective. That means that the adjective that follows a copulative verb describes the noun that comes before the copulative verb.

So that explains why it is correct to say “I am good”. You are modifying the adjective to become a predicate adjective that follows the copulative verb am and good then describes you, the noun.

It is also correct to say “I am well” because you are using well as a predicate adjective for I, not an adverb. However, when you say “I sing well” you are using it as an adverb to define the verb sing. In the general sense, it more accepted if you haven’t kept well for a while and the “How are you?” question is aimed to ask how you are doing in terms of your health. On a general basis, if you have had a good beginning to your day and everything is going well for you, you just say “I am good.”

Are we good now?