• 3-minute read
  • 11th November 2017

Vocabulary Tips: Alternatives to ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’

‘Good’ is the most common adjective in the English language. ‘Bad’, meanwhile, is number 23 in the adjectival charts. As this might suggest, both of these words are often overused. Having a few alternatives can therefore add variety to your writing.

Alternatives to ‘Good’

‘Good’ has various meanings, but here we’ll focus on its use as an adjective. There are quite a few definitions even here, but we’ve sorted some common ones into the table below.




Enough in quality or degree


We have a good number of participants.Acceptable, adequate, satisfactory, sufficient
Very high quality



I had a good time at the Tower of London.Brilliant, excellent, great, outstanding, superb
Useful or beneficial



Vitamin C is good for your immune system.Advantageous, helpful, positive, valuable
Morally good or agreeable



She is a good person.Admirable, pleasant, respectable, virtuous

These are not the only definitions of ‘good’. Nevertheless, the chart above should give you a general sense of how ‘good’ and its synonyms are used in different ways.

Alternatives to ‘Bad’

‘Bad’ is the opposite of ‘good’ in all of its meanings. As a result, this word is used in a similarly large number of situations. A few common uses are shown below.




Substandard or faulty



The bad design led to several failures.Deficient, inadequate, mediocre, poor
Very low quality



I have made some bad decisions in the past.Awful, dreadful, terrible, unacceptable
Harmful or negative



Smoking is bad for you.Damaging, detrimental, injurious, unhealthy

Immoral or disagreeable


Murder is bad.Evil, reprehensible, unpleasant, wrong

As above, these are not the only definitions (or synonyms) for ‘bad’. However, the table above should help you work out which terms can be used as an alternative in which situation.

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‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ in Essays

We should also note that words like ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are not always ideal in essays. These terms, along with the alternatives above, are evaluative and emotive (i.e. they express how we judge or feel about something). But they don’t always provide much useful information.

For example, if we were writing a case study on a failed business, we might want to say that the management had made ‘several bad decisions’. But we’d also need to explain why those decisions were bad (i.e. the effects they had and how this impacted the business).

Unless we do this, the reader won’t know why we think they’re ‘bad’. So although you can use these terms in academic writing, they should come with an explanation. The same applies to any critical or descriptive writing.

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