There’s a very popular magazine on the shelves of all the cooking sections I’ve seen lately. You’ve no doubt heard of it, given that they also produce a tv cooking show. The magazine is called Real Simple. There are, I have to say, great recipes within the pages of this mag. It’s the cover that gets to me. Well, the name of the magazine (and show) actually. Real Simple. What in the name of all things grammatical are they trying to say? Do they mean that the recipes within those pages are real (as in not fake) and simple? If so, the title should read: Real, Simple. Do they mean that the recipes therein are easy to pull together (as in Really Simple)? Am I over thinking this? Probably. But, the magazine’s name does point toward a very common grammatical error. When do we use real vs really or bad vs badly?Figuring out which to use when is easy. Promise. No long explanations involving words like adjective and adverb and which modifies a noun or a verb. Instead, I offer you an explanation that’s short and easy to remember.
Adjectives (ok, I used the word, but the explanation will be short) give more details about the verb. For example: The girl was in a bad bicycle crash. Or: The chef used real meat to make burgers.
Adverbs are used to answer “how”. For example: The girl was hurt badly. Or: The chef’s burgers were really tasty.
The problem seems to happen most when we use sense words (taste, look, smell and feel). For example: The dog smells badly. Maybe he needs a bath. Or perhaps he’s lost his sense of smell. Hmm, hard to say exactly without context. Here’s a trick. If you can replace the sense word with am, is or are, you should use the adjective. Like this: The dog is badly. Aha, since that doesn’t make any sense, the correct sentence is The dog smells bad. (Take him for a spa day, please.)
1. Please don’t feel bad/badly about failing.
2. He visited a real/really nice park.
3. I’m going to run to the store really quick/quickly.
While you’re pondering the answers to those puzzlers, enjoy “Weird Al” Yankovic’s catchy take on grammar.