My belief paid off well.

About the phrase, should I add the word "was" before "paid off"?

3 Answers 3


Short answer: "paid off" if you meant your belief lead to a positive result. "was paid off" if you meant that your belief/faith/trust in something was justified/repaid, but you might want "was paid back" in that case, to be more idiomatic.

Long answer: "pay off" is an idiom. There are two similar usages:

bets "pay off" when the winner gets paid for winning the bet.

loans "are paid off" when the lender finishes paying the principal and interest due on the loan.

The former has passed into an idiom beyond betting to mean any action taken that had a good result (in a context where you could have had a negative or zero result) or had a zero result (when no positive result was possible, only negatives and zero).

Thus, you get "The long hours of study paid off when she passed the test". "My guess paid off." "My belief paid off."

So if your belief lead to a positive result then your "belief paid off".

If, on the other hand, you meant you were "repaid" for your belief, as in you gave them your belief, and they paid you back by fulfilling your trust in them, you would use "was paid off" but almost always follow with "by x" or preceded with an example of how it was paid back/paid off.

Example: "I trusted Jane, and she never let me down. My belief (in her) was paid off." "I trusted Jane, and my trust was paid back with many years of loyalty."


Pay off with no object means "to bring profit" - it can be followed by for X to say who benefited, otherwise the assumption is the subject.

Going to school paid off. (Going to school brought me profit)

Going to school paid off for Marvin. (Going to school brought profit for Marvin)

Pay off X means "to pay enough to settle debt or debtor X"

I just paid off my school loans (I don't owe the bank anymore money).

It can also mean "to bribe" and in this case the adverb well will work:

I paid off the guard pretty well. We can just walk in.

X is/was paid off is an idiom that means "Debt/debtor X received all his/her/its money"

My school loans are paid off. (The bank received all its money)

Paid off can also mean "bribed" as well.

So ...

My belief paid off well.

If your belief profited you, then you want to keep this sentence as is.

If your belief is something you would need to bribe, then my belief was paid off well might make sense. It is unlikely you mean this unless you are being literary.


What you are doing is trying to is use the passive voice.

In this case, "pay off" figuratively means "To become worthwhile; to produce a net benefit." (Wiktionary). In this sense, "pay off" is intransitive. Intransitive verbs cannot take objects in English.

In addition, intransitive verbs cannot utilize the passive voice in English, except for some prepositional constructions.

The rats were eaten by the cats.

In this case "eat" is used transitively, so it can take a passive.

Here is a plain awful sentence:

That speech was listened by John.


She wasn't listened to.

is okay.

  • I don't think this is correct. The question has nothing to do with passive voice, and everything to do with separate and distinct meanings for "pay off" vs "was paid off/will pay off" as the other responses indicate. It's an issue of idioms. Oct 29, 2018 at 7:14

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