What is a correct way of using "pay off" phrase?

Your hard work is paying off.


Your hard work is paid off.

I thought that the one correct way is the second, because I thought "pay off" should be used only in passive for such kind of meaning.

  • 1
    "Your hard work is paying off" means that a person has been working hard and they are now reaping the benefits of it. – Andrew Tobilko Mar 1 '19 at 16:17
  • 1
    "Your hard work is paid off" seems incorrect to me. I would say "Hard work pays off" putting it as a general rule. – Andrew Tobilko Mar 1 '19 at 16:21
  • 1
    You can pay off someone. – Solar Mike Mar 2 '19 at 7:35

To "pay off" has two meanings. When it is used as a transitive verb, it means "to pay a debt in full". When it is used as an intransitive verb, it means "to yield positive returns". (See entry 3 at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/payoff.)

In your example, "pay off" is used as an intransitive verb. If some positive results have occurred, and further positive results are expected in the near future, you would use the present continuous tense:

Your hard work is paying off.

If all or most of the positive results are believed to have already occurred in the recent past, you would use the present perfect:

Your hard work has paid off.

When you see a sentence that says, "X is paid off," the verb "pay off" is being used as a transitive verb in the passive. The implication is that X is a debt that has been paid off. For example:

How long do we have to wait until our mortgage is paid off?

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.