Grammar Question - I eat healthy

Is the statement 'I eat healthy" grammatically correct ? I have noticed this or similar statements a lot while watching American television and I am not sure if this correct usage in the USA.

I would either say 'I eat healthily" or 'I eat healthy food" but not 'I eat healthy" as healthy is an adjective not an adverb.

What is the accepted way of saying this statement in the USA?


Sounds fine to me.

And that’s how we’d ferret out the foreigner. :slight_smile:

I’m guessing this is a US construction that goes back a long way. It sounds incorrect to my ears, but even in the early '70s I remember signs in Texas that said “DRIVE FRIENDLY” rather than “DRIVE FRIENDLILY” (?) or “DRIVE IN A FRIENDLY MANNER” ('coz that wouldn’t have fit on the sign).

I’m from Texas, so maybe that explains it. :slight_smile:

Well, technically, “healthy” is an adjective, but it is used as an adverb in the sentence. Use of it as an adverb is not attested in the OED, so it’s a fairly new construction. Technically, the sentence should be “I eat healthily.”

However, “healthily” is rarely used (the OED’s last cite is over a century old); it’s a very awkward word to say. And some adjectives do end up being used as adverbs and become accepted use as such (e.g., “slow”).

What this seems to be is a change in languge. It’s not technically correct, but if enough people use it, the adverb use will eventually make it into dictionaries. Whether it’s wrong or not depends on how pedantic you want to be.

“Play nice”.

Unless you’re a Brit: we would still use it.

It’s one of those constructions that is, technically, grammatically incorrect, but has been accepted as standard usage – at least on this side of the Pond. Just like “I feel good.” An old school English teacher might be tempted to whack you on the wrist with her yardstick, but nobody else would even blink.

I’ve gotten slammed for my puritanical view on this one before, but I still maintain that “I eat healthily” (or. in my opinion, “I eat healthfully”) is more correct. The idea is that living things are “healthy” (or not). If there is something that will promote your good health, then that thing is considered “healthful”. Whole wheat pancakes are not healthy, unless you’ve got some flapjacks out jogging twenty minutes every morning. Therefore, whole wheat pancakes are “healthful”, not “healthy”. The act of eating is approached the same way: “I eat healthfully” implies that you eat in a healthful manner.

I suppose one could say, “I eat healthy” in an attempt to convey that they only eat foods that are free of disease. But such a statement is pretty grammatically awkward, as well as incomplete.

Is one absolutely correct and the other absolutely incorrect? Well this is language, which means - for better or for worse - the majority rules. Such is the (often sad) evolution of language.

  • OlPeculiar

Nothing sad about it. Particularly the distinction between “healthy” and “healthful”, which is an entirely fanciful invention on the part of prescriptivists. “Healthy” has been used to describe things that promote good health for hundreds of years; it’s a later development for people to condemn that usage. And it’s one that makes no sense, as there’s certainly no possibility of confusion, and there’s obviously nothing unusual about a word having several related meanings.

No, it’s a predicate adjective, and accurate as it stands.

“I eat healthily” translates as “The manner in which I consume my food is one that conduces to good health”, i.e., I chew everything thoroughly, don’t bolt anything, etc.

“I eat healthy” is short for “I eat [such things as are calculated to keep myself] healthy.”

It’s a juncture between subject and adjective that is not drawn by a form of “to be” but reshaped by the verb. “I eat with the explicit goal of good health.”

The “Southwestern adjectiverb” of “Drive friendly” or “Drive safe” is a combo of a regional tendency to use predicate adjective for adverb in colloquial speech and a focus on the unspoken subject: “[You should] Drive [in a manner that shows or pretends that you are] friendly” or “…[in a way that will keep you] safe.”

The form is related to the sensory-verb predication:

“This sentence sounds stupid” probably does, but implies a relationship between stupid-soundingness and the self-referential sentence.

“That dog smells bad” implies he’s been rolling in the mud again, or chased a skunk. Of course, if a nasal condition is messing up his sense of smell, he instead smells badly.

“This fish tastes bad” means you shouldn’t have waited three days to cook it; “This fish tastes badly,” as anyone would if they had a fishhook stuck through their tongue.

The 1950s cartoon character Pogo ran for President in one story arc (to use a 50-year anachronism), with a campaign slogan, modeled on “I Like Ike,” of “I Go Pogo” – the message of support was clear even though the sentence defies a precise grammatical analysis. Whatever “Pogo” is doing in that sentence, it’s certainly not a direct object, but rather related to everything else by one or a multiplicity of implied constructions – the ambiguity in precisely what preposition or phrase one goes for, about in favor of, in support of, etc., Pogo is a part of the construction’s charm.

There’s a genius in American colloquial English that seems to know precisely when to substitute a subject-pointing verb-flavored adjective for the “proper” adverb of formal English, though I think it would take a student of colloquial English some extended study to try to define when it is and is not done.

“I feel good.” is proper English assuming you mean you don’t have aches and such. If you mean you have a higly defiend sense of touch, then you say I feel well. You can also feel well in the sense of not being sick since well is an adjective in that usage.

I would say “I eat healthfully.”

Sorry, Polycarp, but what you are in essence saying is that “I eat healthy” is a short-hand way of saying: “I eat healthy foods” or “I eat in a healthy manner,” or some similar idea. True, but it doesn’t change the fact that it is improper grammatical construction; you can’t just drop out the word for which the adjective is a modifier.

Not that this will stop people. How many grocery stores proclaim an express lane where you can check out with “10 items or less?” People use whatever grammar they want to use, and we in America tend to be much less fussy about it than our other English-speaking cousins.

Doesn’t sound right to me, but then my idea of grammar (while typically correct) is quite lacking in definition.

Reminds me of the napkins from Subway that annoy me all the time, as each one is printed to read “eat fresh”.

Um, no. That’s not what “predicative adjective” means at all.

On the other hand, I have serious doubts that safe in Drive safe! is a predicative adjective. I think that’s just an adjective/adverb in a dialect that doesn’t distinguish between them very clearly.

Interestingly, the less/fewer distinction is also a new invention. Not only has “less” always been used in regard to discrete objects as well as measurable quantities, but there are plenty of citations for the reverse as well! (Though using “fewer” in regard to a quantity that is measured is no longer permitted in any dialect of English I know of.)

I would agree with this.

Well, who wants to eat stale napkins? And would “Eat freshly” be any better?

A “predicative” adjective is an adjective that refers to a noun, but which is used as part of the predicate of a sentence. Thus, in the sentence, “The man is smart,” “smart” is a predicative adjective. To be an adjective, it needs to modify a noun. Usually, predicative adjectives modify the noun used as the subject of the sentence.

“I eat healthy” is an incorrect construction. The adjective “healthy” must be modifying a noun, or it shouldn’t be used. It certainly isn’t modifying the pronoun “I.” So we have to assume that it is modifying some other, unstated, noun. If the concept being communicated is, “I eat healthy things,” then the adjective really isn’t predicative; its attributive and modifies “things.” But it is much more likely that the adjective is intended to communicate that the person eats in a “healthy way.” As such, it is an improper use of the adjectival form; the adverbial form should be used instead since the word is intended to inform us about the action of eating. And even if it IS intending to convey the former concept, it is not correct construction because you aren’t supposed to just drop out the noun to be modified and leave it to be assumed, which was the point I made in my earlier post.