‘Look good’ vs. ‘look well’ in English

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more (PDF Version).

Sentences with the verb “look” (in the sense of “appear, seem”) have a different structure from what many English learners think. “Look” is followed by an adjective, not an adverb:

She looks pretty. (correct)
She looks prettily. (wrong)
It looks large. (correct)
It looks largely. (wrong)

However, we run into another problem in the case of “good” and “well”. “Well” also has a second meaning, “in good health”, which is used as an adjective. Therefore, both sentences below are grammatically correct:

He looks good. (correct)
He looks well. (correct but means something else!)

The meanings are as follows:

“He looks good.” = “He is good-looking.”
“He looks well.” = “He seems to be in good health.”

If we use “look” in the sense of seeing or searching, then “look well” where “well” is an adverb makes sense. For example, we could say:

If you look well, you will see it.

This construction is possible, but “carefully” is more common in this context:

If you look carefully, you will see it.

This article was based on my guide to the most common mistakes in English, which explains many similar topics. Why don’t you check it out?

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