1. They maintained high prices.

  2. They maintained the prices high.

Is there any difference between these two sentences? Is the former grammatical correct? Why or why not?


4 Answers 4


They are both technically grammatical, and they both mean essentially the same thing.

However, the second sentence seems unidiomatic to me.

Typically, maintain is used in only a few ways.

It's first use is maintain [adjective] (noun):

She maintained the machinery.
He couldn't maintain his argument.
They tried to maintain their high hopes.

This is the construction that the first sentence takes.

Second, it can be (phrase) (to / be) maintain:

There were to many components to maintain.
The level of excellence could not be maintained.
To survive, it was a feat he had to maintain.

Last, with a difference sense of maintain, there is maintain that (phrase):

I maintain that this is how it's done.
You maintain that you need to go to sleep.
We maintain that we will not be denied.

Your second sentence follows none of those constructions. Instead, its construction follows maintain (noun) [adjective]. That's unusual.

Any of these seem normal to me:

They maintained the prices.
They maintained high prices.
They maintained the high prices.

But, typically, I would not expect to see your second sentence:

They maintained the prices high.

Instead, I'd expect to more commonly see a different verb:

They kept the prices high.


Both are grammatically correct, and strictly analytically, there is no difference between the sentences. That's not to say there is no difference, as there clearly is. The difference is a matter of what is being emphasized. As a general rule, the earlier a word is in the sentence, the more emphasis it is given.

With your sentences:

They maintained high prices.

The emphasis is on "high". The maintaining is happening to high prices. We care that these prices are high.

They maintained prices high.

The emphasis is on "prices". The maintaining is happening to prices. We care about the price... which is being maintained, as opposed to changing. The high part is an afterthought, not the focus.


Not really

First of all I would say that I see no valid purpose for the quotation marks in these two sentences. The word high is not being referred to as a word, and it is not quoted from a speaker or another source. Unless the author means to imply that the prices were said to be high but were not really high, and makes this clear in some nearby sentence.

In the first case "high" is an adjective modifying "prices". In the second case "high" is also an adjective. Most adjectives can appear either after or before the noun that they modify. Perhaps the second form suggests a reference to some absolute or external standard of high price, but no such standard is included in the sentence, and the difference is a very subtle one. For all practical purposes, the meaning of the two sentence is the same. Consider other sentences with a simialr form:

The pilot kept the plane in level flight.


The pilot kept the plane's flight level.

and another pair

He made a timely arrival.


His arrival was timely.

In each case the two sentences are of pretty much identical meaning. In each case, the first, with the adjective before the noun, is a bit more natural, but the difference is hardly worth remarking. In a more complex sentence, this difference might matter more.


Both sentences are correct, and without the context, there isn't any clear difference in meaning between the two of them.

However, "high" is not used as an adverb in either. "High" is an adjective modifying "prices" in both of them.

"High" can sometimes be an adverb.


"After we won the championship we were flying high."

"Even as a pre-teen, he was able to throw high and fast."

But the adverb "highly", formed from "high", is more common.


"That sports car is very highly rated by Consumer Reports."

"Rocket fuel is highly flammable."

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .