For example, Shanghai is a "highly-populated city " or "one of most populous cities"in China. Are they both correct? If so, which one is more common?

  • Google Ngrams aren't a final proof, but this one is in favour of 'most populous'. Although, 'most' is a superlative, and I'm not sure that those two phrases mean exactly the same thing. – Lucky Jun 10 '15 at 2:29
  • 5
    They mean different things. If you consider a city's population to be high (or maybe dense), then it is highly-populated. If it is literally a city with one of the highest populations in the region in question, then it is one of the most populous cities. For example, I don't think anyone would call the city of Juneau "highly populated". It is, however, "one of the most populous cities in Alaska". – commando Jun 10 '15 at 3:24
  • True. Mumbai could be highly populated city, but Shanghai is the most populous. 'high' and 'the most'... as Lucky says are different. – Maulik V Jun 10 '15 at 4:39
  • by the way, "highly populated city" does not have a hyphen. Adverb used to modify adjective does not require hyphen. – Brian Hitchcock Jun 10 '15 at 9:21

This is just like many and most.

Definition of many by Google:

a large number of.

Definition of most by Google:

greatest in amount or degree.


"highly-populated city" means a city that is populous while "most populous city" means the city is more populated than any other cities.

The difference is that most is a superlative while highly populated is like a normal adjective.

Here are few more examples:

I have many games.

I have the most games in the world.

| improve this answer | |

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.