I wanted to thank someone who has helped me a lot, and I wanted to say that I hoped I could at some point "give back some of the good you've given me". But this doesn't sound correct. Is it ever grammatical to "give good" to someone? (here's an ngram for "the good you have given")

I know someone can do good to someone else though, so would the above sentence be correct if I said instead "give back some of the good you've done to me"? It still sounds odd to my ears. How could I express this in proper English?

Related: Difference between "do good to" "do good for" and "do good by"

  • There is a slang usage: "I gave it to him good!" but it means exactly the opposite of what you're intending! It means that I angrily yelled at him or maybe even physically beat him up. Jan 26, 2021 at 15:48
  • @CanadianYankee Thanks for the heads-up!:)
    – flen
    Jan 26, 2021 at 22:52

1 Answer 1


give back some of the good you've given me

No, this is not at all idiomatic.

The most idiomatic phrase to express this idea is "return the kindness", eg:

"You were so kind to me, I would like to return the kindness".

You may also hear "return the favour", but some people may see a "favour" as a 'token' gesture and may prefer not to use that word.

Also, it is a bit unusual to say "some of" the kindness. When it comes to good or kind actions, reciprocation does not have to be like-for-like, but is not normally measured.

The only context in which you may hear "give good" is when 'good' is being used as a grade or level on a scale. For example, if a school teacher grades their children's work as either 'poor', 'average', 'good' or 'excellent', the teacher might say of a child "I gave them good" to mean they awarded them the 'good' level.

  • Thanks! Do you think "return/retribute the good you've done to me" could be any better?
    – flen
    Jan 26, 2021 at 22:53
  • @flen it's not as idiomatic as my suggestions. 'retribute' definitely not.
    – Astralbee
    Jan 27, 2021 at 19:41

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