I'm not a native speaker of English. I'm trying to teach English learners positive and negative words.

I found this word in students' textbook, which only gives me the choice between positive and negative. I doubt the correctness of the textbook. Is the word 'expensive' negative or neutral?


3 Answers 3


It really depends on the context, and because of that, I think you would be best to say neutral. For example, here are three cases:

Positive: My friend brought an expensive wine to the party for us to try.

Neutral: The electric dryer was more expensive than the gas.

Negative: I was shocked by how expensive hotel rooms were because of the convention.

I would say that in general most English speakers would say something being "expensive" is a bad thing, but actual usage is rarely that simple. Ultimately, the connotation depends on who is paying the "expensive" price.

  • All those uses are the same. One is not more negative than the other. It is the surrounding context that is positive, neutral or negative.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 13, 2016 at 17:23
  • 3
    @Lambie That is kind of the point.
    – user15474
    Commented Jun 13, 2016 at 17:46

The literal meaning of expensive is that it costs a lot of money. It depends on your view if that is a negative or a neutral thing. It also depends on the reason why something is expensive. It is quite a philosophical question, I think.


In fact, it could be both. If you use the sentence

That toy was way too expensive!

the connotation is negative.
If you use the sentence

The blue boat is more expensive than the red one

it's not. So the answer depends on the sentence.

  • That second example is not one of a positive connotation; it can still go both ways.
    – user22427
    Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 21:01
  • That is very true. Commented Mar 21, 2019 at 19:37

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