When someone tells you something like:

It's interesting to have such a feature.

It's interesting to look.

Is it a negative or positive phrase?

It sounds like a positive phrase but I think it may be a negative phrase because if we wanted to express a positive phrase then we wouldn't use "interesting". We would use a more appropriate phrase like "it's good", "it's nice", etc.

  • What do you mean by "negative" and "positive"? And, by your reasoning, you may be interested in Grice's Maxims and their pragmatic results. Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 2:45
  • negative means it is describing the things are bad indeed or there is implicitly bad meaning and vice versa. The link you provided is "page not found" now
    – TheOneTeam
    Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 3:13
  • 1
    Thank you. Sorry I mistyped the link; it should be http://www.umich.edu/~jlawler/Grice.pdf. Interesting can mean either, since it can be ironic; also, by Grice's first Quantity maxim, if the most you can say about something is that it's "interesting", you are not complimenting it (unless it is an idea of some kind). You may in fact be insulting it if everyone else is praising it. Everything depends on the intonation, facial expression, rhythm, and context. It's not bad by itself, but it can be used that way. Same in Putonghua or any language. Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 14:19

4 Answers 4


"Interesting" could be either positive or negative. If someone says your artwork is "interesting" and she really means it, that is positive. But if she says your artwork is "interesting" because she cannot think of anything positive to say about it, that is not so positive.


"Interesting" is a relatively low-impact adjective. It doesn't inherently imply a positive or negative connotation. The only way to distinguish between a positive "interesting" and a negative "interesting" is through its context and tone.


Mirriam-Webster offers

attracting your attention and making you want to learn more about something or to be involved in something : not dull or boring

Until I had a teenager in the house, the above would have been exactly how I'd have used it. I now find that the teen (at least in the Northeast US) use of this word is exclusively pejorative. If I ask "how was that math class?" and they respond, "interesting", they mean they didn't understand the material and need help. With polite respect to MrHen's answer, it's not always possible to decipher the tone of the teen, but of course, if they're willing to talk further, the context should make the usage clear.

Words' meaning change over time, definition follows usage. Not instantly, of course. If this newer usage continues for a time, I'd bet you'll see the definition updated to a clearly negative one.


By its own definition, interesting means arousing curiosity or interest.

The phrase is positive, and its meaning is not the same as "it's good/nice."

It is as appropriate a response as "good/nice."

Something that is good/nice may not be interesting.

Just an individual's word choice, really.

Also, the way for "it's interesting" to have a negative impression is when it's used as sarcasm. Actually, any positive phrase used as sarcasm is negative.

  • 2
    "That's interesting" could also be used when the speaker means: "I find it very interesting that you seem to like that idea which I find to be extremely bad." The use of That['s] is sometimes useful in hiding exactly what is being referred to.
    – Jim
    Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 4:56
  • I've occasionally heard ethically questionable business practices described as "interesting." A great part of the connotation comes from the subject at hand.
    – user867
    Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 5:31
  • 1
    I wouldn't say that interesting is always positive. Detective to suspect, e.g.: "Your phone records show that you were in the victim's neighborhood on the night of the murder. We find that rather interesting."
    – J.R.
    Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 9:13
  • 1
    One can say that's interesting as a way of saying that's probably interesting to someone, but it's not interesting to me. Commented Sep 10, 2016 at 16:43

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