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    • Join Date: Oct 2009
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    speak bad of/speak ill of

    Hello it's the first time I'm posting +__+
    Anyway, i came across this phrase when i was going through some grammar questions.
    "speak bad of".

    The sentence was
    "You ought not to speak bad of others in their absence."

    Now, my grammar book tells me that this phrase is wrong,
    and says also that "speak _______ of "
    can only be used with "well/ill".
    (so the correct sentence would look like, "You ought not to speak ill of others in their absence.")

    However, I have come across many articles/writings/dialogues/etc....
    where native speakers would use the "speak _______ of " phrase with many other words, such as [nicely, good, bad, highly......]
    I don't believe there is a specific limit to what words you can put in that blank.(But then what would I know, I'm not a native speaker. ) I have googled the term and it turns up in some articles, video titles, and casual diary entries also.

    In conclusion, is using "bad" instead of "ill" grammatically incorrect? Is this term something that is fixed or can be modified to fit the speaker's needs?
    I'd like to know. Thanks!

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    • Join Date: Oct 2008
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    Re: speak bad of/speak ill of

    The preference is to use an adverb here (adverbs modify verbs, so you use an adverb to describe the verb "speak").

    "Well" and "ill" are adverbs. Actually, "Ill" can be an adjective or an adverb (Thankfully, no one makes us say "illly"!), but both are standard English use, as an adjective or an adverb.

    "Bad" is an adjective. Only informally (read: not quite right) is it used as an adverb, preferring instead the "badly" construction.

    So, you may speak badly, ill, or well or someone, but not bad or good. You may use many other adverbs. You may speak politely (but not polite), effusively (but not effusive), extensively (but not extensive), etc., about someone. Just make sure it's an adverb you speak!

    Learn this, and you will be speaking properly (not proper).

  2. #3

    Re: speak bad of/speak ill of

    Very reasonable explanation. Thanks a lot.

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