James: I make 10000 USD a month.
Alice: Wow, you have a highly paid job.

Is the phrase “highly paid job” correct?

I think yes, but also wish to ask the native speakers here.

I assume that “high paid job” is an incorrect alternative.

  • It's highly paid job or high paying job: Google Ngram. Sep 14, 2012 at 19:08
  • My understanding is that we do not compounds formed from adverbs ending in -ly.
    – user171117
    Apr 19, 2016 at 12:55

3 Answers 3


Basically yes, that phrase sounds fine, though I might hyphenate highly and paid:

You have a highly-paid job.

I might also paraphrase it to sounds slightly more natural (though this is subjective):

Wow, you're highly paid!

"High paid job" is grammatically incorrect because "highly" needs to be an adverb to modify the verb "paid".

  • 4
    I don't agree with your recommendation to hyphenate highly paid in your first example. In fact, I would consider that an error. And I think native speakers would be more likely to say "Wow, you have a high-paying job."
    – JLG
    Sep 14, 2012 at 12:01
  • 1
    People don't hyphenate enough. If two words are closely linked and they're almost being used as one word adjectivally, I consider that a good candidate for hyphenation. :-P
    – Jez
    Sep 14, 2012 at 13:37
  • I believe the 'rule' for hyphenating pre-modifiers hinges on avoiding ambiguities: the sweet shop-girl v the sweet-shop girl. In the Wikipedia article on English compounds at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_compound , we find: Usage in the US and in the UK differs and often depends on the individual choice of the writer rather than on a hard-and-fast rule; therefore, open, hyphenated, and closed forms may be encountered for the same compound noun, such as the triplets container ship/container-ship/containership and particle board/particle-board/particleboard. Sep 14, 2012 at 15:36
  • @JLG I understand the argument that you can drop the hyphen when no ambiguity is likely. But I cannot comprehend a rule that says you MUST NOT include it. The standard grammar rule is that compound adjectives should be hyphenated. Sometimes this rule can be ignored with little harm, but that's not a reason to say it SHOULD be ignored. That's rather like saying that because you know that there is rarely traffic on this particular street at night and you could often safely cross without bothering to look, that therefore you MUST NOT look before crossing the street. :-)
    – Jay
    Sep 14, 2012 at 16:29
  • 1
    This is simply wrong. One never hyphenates an -ly adverb to show which adjective it is modifying. It is clear.
    – tchrist
    Dec 7, 2012 at 4:41

High can be an adverb (with comparative and superlative forms) as well as an adjective:

adv. higher, highest

  1. At, in, or to a lofty position, level, or degree ... [flew high]

  2. In an extravagant or luxurious way: made a fortune and lived high. [AHDEL]

In that it has the same form as the adjective, it is known as a flat adverb

Obviously, the related -ly form exists:

He was rated highly by the judges.

That being said, I really want to see the splitting off of degree-modifiers (such as the prototypical very as in very quickly, very bright) and other secondary modifiers (such as mystifyingly silent, obviously troubled, off-puttingly tedious, oppressively close, overweeningly devoted, painfully obvious / shy, perilously close - to name but a few) into a separate word-class. Admittedly, they are almost always isoformal with related adverbs, but their function is very different - in fact, very can't even modify a verb, except whimsically (How very dare you!)

Returning to the possibility of using 'high paid' rather than 'highly paid', it depends on whether high may be used as a degree modifier as well as an adverb. Apart from very, most secondary modifiers are of the -ly form. Well isn't of the -ly form, and is only used very informally as a degree modifier (He's well cheeky!) However, in a high-flying aeroplane, we see that it can, though it does require the hyphen here. On the other hand, a highly paid job or a highly-paid job would seem to sound more natural.


I assume that "high paid job" is an incorrect alternative.

It's not incorrect. Here's an example:

Research reveals that they are seriously under-represented in higher-paid jobs.

Reference: Collins Cobuild Dictionary
Also see here.

However, here are some alternatives:

  1. highly-paid job
  2. high-paying job
  3. well-paid job
  • What is “it” in “It's not false”? Also, please indicate the entry you refer to in Collins Cobuild Dictionary and indicate what the alternatives are alternative to. Sep 14, 2012 at 14:40
  • 1. "it" refers to "high paid job", which is quoted in my answer. 2. It's not online -- it's taken form Collins Cobuild Advanced Learner's English Dictionary on CD-ROM. It has a large word bank form the Bank of English Corpus. Here's the screenshot. 3. Please see the main question title.
    – Mori
    Sep 14, 2012 at 15:01
  • If you put that information into your answer, I will upvote it. Please include the name of the example sentence's Collins entry (Eg job? paying? What?). Sep 14, 2012 at 15:59

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