The phrase "for good" is often used in sentences like "Use your powers for good".
Would it be idiomatic to use the phrase "for bad" in such a sentence? I very rarely see the word 'bad' used in that sort of abstract, capital sense, and when I do, it's nearly always in juxtaposition with "for good". ("There's no telling whether she'll use it for good or for bad".)

But can 'bad' be used in this sense? If not, why can I do this with 'good' but not with 'bad'?

  • 3
    for good or for ill is how it's usually stated. It's a set phrase. Oct 9, 2023 at 23:17
  • 2
    I agree, "ill", although "evil" can be used there too. Oct 10, 2023 at 0:04

1 Answer 1


In this kind of context, the antonym of 'good' is normally 'evil'. And yes, to say someone uses their powers for evil is a common trope in fantasy - see this article.

That specific phrase just doesn't sound quite right with 'bad', and it is difficult to say quite why that is the case - after all, heroes are villains are often referred to as "goodies and baddies". All I can say is that both 'good' and 'bad' have many uses and definitions and they are not always exact antonyms in every case. Or, perhaps it is just because it is, as the reference says, a 'trope' that has been repeated so often that is what sounds correct.

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