- You can spell good night as a single-word phrase or a compound word meaning farewell or sweet dreams.
- Depending on the situation, goodnight can be used as a noun or an adjective.
- Good night, when spelled separately, is used as an interjection.
- Think of good morning when saying good night as a greeting – it’ll help you memorize the spelling.
Alright, good night or morning or good afternoon to you (it’s night for me)! If you’ve ever found yourself pondering the spelling of a word, that makes two of us! In fact, many English speakers have trouble spelling goodnight correctly. Is good night one word or two words? We’ll now address this tricky matter.
The phrase good night is a farewell interjection, or, in other words, a brief phrase used to express emotion and wish someone a good night. A fun fact about interjections is that they can stand alone as complete sentences (although it doesn’t make much sense to many).
So, how do you tell a five-year-old when to use good night or goodnight? You can’t go into grammar because they won’t understand you. Plus, grownups also stumble on the spelling of this common phrase because it can be used as a noun or adjective.
Keep reading to learn how to differentiate between goodnight and good night.
Goodnight vs Good Night: What Is the Difference?
So, is good night one word or two? To an English teacher, the distinction is clear, but what about the rest of us?
The phrase can be spelled both ways, as both are acceptable spellings. You can use both good night and goodnight as a farewell phrase when you want to wish someone a good sleep.
In addition, we use good night to describe a night as a pleasant, enjoyable experience. For example: “Did you have a good night at your friend’s party?” The example seeks answers that will describe the night in question.
However, there is a catch. In essence, good night, spelled as two words, is the more correct way in formal writing. Also, the two-word spelling is used when two people are parting ways and wishing each other a good night after a long day.
To make things clearer, we’ll take a closer look at the subtle distinctions.
Goodnight as an Adjective
Good night, the common farewell phrase, is only applicable when used as a greeting. In grammar, goodnight can be an adjective describing a noun. For instance, there’s a goodnight walk or a goodnight prayer.
Also, when we give our little ones a goodnight kiss, we’re wishing them a good night’s sleep. In general, spelling goodnight as a one-word is used as an adjective, while the two-word phrase is usually used as an interjection.
English experts prefer to use the two-word spelling as a typical farewell phrase, whereas goodnight or good-night is commonly used as an adjective.
Goodnight as a Noun
Following grammar standards, goodnight takes on the role of a noun, too. However, its purpose as a noun is very rare. In such cases, the farewell is used to describe the actual action of wishing someone a good night.
Check out these example sentences using goodnight as a noun:
- They quickly wished their goodnights before going to bed.
- Mrs. Dickinson’s children are very well-behaved; they always announce their goodnights.
Whether used as an adjective or a noun, Oxford dictionaries recognize both spellings of the phrase. According to some other examples of one-word spelling, goodnight is predominantly used to note an exclamation or make a statement, so to speak.
The single-word option is the outcome of a specific morphological method known as compounding, where two words are blended into a single word, which takes on a whole different meaning.
More Goodnight or Good Night Examples
The English language is a beautiful language, despite the grammar confusion it might cause sometimes.
Let’s look at some examples of good night and goodnight in English literature. Let us explore some sentence examples using both spellings of the good night phrase.
“Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow that I shall say good night till it be morrow.” William Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet
“Goodnight stars, goodnight air, goodnight noises everywhere.” Margaret Wise Brown, Goodnight Moon
The young boys said their goodnights and switched off the night light.
Mom kissed him goodnight and tucked him in.
Her dad reminded Sophie to say her goodnight prayer.
“I’ve said my goodnight, and now I’m going!”, Maxwell shouted to Carrie as he turned his back and climbed upstairs.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
So, how do you learn whether you should use goodnight or good night faster? When using the phrase as a greeting, avoid using it as a one-word phrase. If it makes it easier to remember, think of good night as the spelling for good morning. You always spell good morning as two separate words instead of one word.
On the other hand, when using it as a modifier, i.e., to modify a noun, always use the single-word variation.
What about “Goodbye?”
Those against the logic between “good night” and “goodnight” may argue that the word “goodbye” is a similar farewell that uses the word “good” but is spelled as one word. The thing is, though, while it seems similar to these greetings, those who defend this forget the origins of the word “bye.”
Bye is actually the shortened form of “goodbye,” so when you say bye, you’re actually saying “goodbye.” Saying good morning, good afternoon, or good night is merely a shortened form of a greeting or farewell; you’re actually telling someone that you bid them a good morning or wish them a good night. There’s are standalone elements involved.
But if you say “goodbye,” you’re bidding someone a farewell greeting. You can’t say “good bye” because, following that logic, you’re wishing someone a good goodbye, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. That means “bye” can stand alone, but if you’re going to say “goodbye,” it has to be one word.
Origins of the “Good ___” Greeting
We can trace the use of “good morning” and “good night” back centuries. “Good morrow,” an archaic way of saying good morning, was frequently used in the 1600s as it is mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare and John Donne. Use of good morning, afternoon, and night, may have started in the late 1800s, according to the American Journal of Education.
Max Weber’s General Economic History was published in 1923 but features lecture notes taken prior to his death in 1920. This mean that, between the late 1800s and the early 1900s, Germans who said “Guten Morgen” (good morning in German) were actually using language in terms of farming. A “morgen” meant a strip of land an ox could plow in a day, so to greet one a “guten morgen” was not only to wish someone a good day, but to wish that they had a “good day’s plow.”
“Good Morning/Afternoon/Night” Today
Today, “good morning” has become a formal and polite way of greeting someone during the day (depending on their culture’s concept of morning and afternoon). More informal greetings would simply say “morning” or “afternoon”. Good morning has always been used as a greeting, but good afternoon may be used as both a greeting and farewell.
“Good night,” however, is used only as a farewell. To greet someone at night, you would have to say “good evening.” Informal greetings and farewells also include “g’night,” “evening,” and other variations in other cultures. While other forms of greetings and farewell exist in different cultures without the use of time modifiers, these greetings are still commonly used today.
To recap, if you’re going to write a farewell to someone at night or address a farewell to someone in writing, use the two-word variant: good night. But if you’re talking about the noun or noun adjective, use the one-word form, goodnight. Using these forms for the appropriate purpose provides a grammatically correct syntax that is much clearer to your readers.
To recap, the difference between goodnight vs good night goes beyond spelling. In short, if you’re wishing someone sweet dreams, say good night. If you’re using goodnight as an adjective or noun, always spell it as one word.
And remember – spelling can be tricky, so always make correlations with other words to help you remember which spelling of the word is used when.
LEARN MORE: Why ‘Sorry for the Inconvenience’ is Not Good Enough: Alternatives and Common Mistakes