I’m sure you are thinking: “Are they not the same?” :) and I tell you they aren’t. Let’s see why…Grammatically BEM and MAL are adverbs, just like “WELL” and “BADLY/HARDLY”.
Eg: Eu não tava realmente me sentindo muito bem (I wasn’t feeling very well, actually.)
Sometimes you also can use BEM and MAL like nouns (in Portuguse you can do it by putting an article before these words):
Eg: O bem vence o mal. (The good overcomes evil)
Eg: Esta cirurgia plástica foi mal feita. (This plastic surgery was poorly done)
How about BOM and MAU? They’re easier to understand because grammatically they just can be adjectives, like “Good” and “bad”. Check these examples:
Eg: Este sorvete é muito bom. (This icecream is really good.)
Existem bons pastores e maus pastores . (There are good shepherds and bad shepherds.)
Hoje eu estou de mau humor. (Today I’m in a bad mood.)
Now let’s think about some common greetings in Portuguese: “Tudo bem?” and “Tudo bom?”. They both mean “how are you?”. So, in this case it doesn’t matter if they are adverbs or adjectives :D, if I ask you “tudo bem?” or “Tudo bom?”you just answer me: “tudo bem e você?” or “tudo bom” (yes! it’s possible! but only in this situation) or to sound even more natural you can say “Tudo. E você?” ;)
And if even after those explanation you still have doubts, so here is a good hint to help you:
BEM is always the opposite of MAL and BOM is the opposite of MAU. Do not forget! ;)
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See you guys! Até mais!