Is there any difference between 'Bad English' and 'Poor English'? If yes, when I should use them?


5 Answers 5


Yes. "Bad English" is an example of "Bad English". "Poor English" is an example of Proper English.

"Bad English" is grammatically correct, and perfectly understandable. But in contexts where both "bad" and "poor" are appropriate (and have the same meaning), "bad" is informal, whereas "poor" is formal. Most native English speakers learn the word "bad" before they learn the word "poor".

For example, a school teacher might talk about a student who has "poor English language skills"; she might want her students to "speak English well". (Notice that "well" is an adverb, which modifies "speak".)

The student might just care about whether he has "good English" or "bad English". If he just started learning, then he probably knows the word "bad", but he might not know the word "poor". So people with "bad English" are less likely to say things like "poor English".

By the way, there are many situations where "bad" and "poor" are not synonyms. For example, Michael Jackson sang "I'm bad." But he had lots of money, so he was not "poor" financially. He was also a very good poet and singer, so he was not a "poor" artist.

  • See Kosmonaut's answer at english.stackexchange.com/questions/32456/… for a different view: bad has always been a synonym of this sense of poor. At a certain point in time, some prescriptivists began to advocate for the dichotomy that you describe, but this was never actually reflected in usage.
    – user182601
    Commented Apr 6 at 1:22

Bad English is more informal and poor English is more formal.

In speech with friends or an informal email (for example) it would be fine to say bad English, but if you're writing a paper or speaking more formally, use poor English.


"Bad" English is simply worse than "poor" English. Both words imply judgement. The implication is both metaphorical and connotative. Therefore "bad" English does not mean literally "sinful" English.


Adam Pendragwn's answer is itself "shockingly incorrect", & should be ignored. "Bad" & "good" CAN have moral implications, depending on their usage, but certainly don't ALWAYS have any moral judgement. A bad egg will make you sick, but has no evil intentions. A good essay is well written, but could still espouse evil ideas. To assign good, or evil, or morality of any kind, to the words "good" & "bad" is to have no understanding of their meanings or usage.

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    This is a good response to the other answer, but it's not a full answer to the question. I suggest turning it into a comment on the other answer (which, surprisingly, hasn't gotten any in six years!). Commented Jun 25 at 20:40
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    I would have loved to make it a comment on that answer, but, when I tried, I got a message that read, "You must have 50 reputation to comment", so I couldn't. 🤷 Commented Jun 26 at 7:16
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    If you're interested in sticking around, it's pretty easy to gain, since every "upvote" is 10. A few well-asked questions or good answers can get you there. The tour and help pages are a good place to start. Commented Jun 26 at 14:07

I’m sorry but the above answers to this question, of bad vs poor English, are shockingly incorrect! In fact, the words “good” and “bad” imply a sense of morality, like right and wrong; therefore “bad English” actually means “evil English” or “misbehaving English”—-which are nonsensical. So the correct expression would be “poor English.” However, it would be still linguistically incorrect to say “Bill speaks poor English.” It would be more correct to say “Bill speaks English poorly,” or most correctly “Bill speaks English incorrectly.” Just remember, good and bad, and right and wrong imply a sense of morality—-righteous and evil; whereas correct and incorrect mean just that.


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