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“Quality”, “Good Quality”, and “High Quality”: What’s the Difference?

A diamond is a stone of “good quality.” Perseverance is a “quality” we want at this company. While these two sentences share similar wording, appearances can be deceiving, so what is the difference between quality, good quality, and high quality?

“Quality” as a noun is a characteristic or attribute that you can see as good or bad. Both “Good quality” and “High Quality” use an adjective plus a noun to describe something or someone as of a high standard. Similarly, as a hyphenated adjective or adjective phrase, “good-quality” and “high-quality” describe something as of a relatively high standard.

Let’s dive in to see where we can use “quality” and “good quality” and what function they serve in a sentence. We’ll also cover how to use compound adjectives and when we should use the hyphen and when we shouldn’t.

Is It Correct to Say “Good Quality”?

If you find a nice shirt for work or go out to a nice restaurant, you want your money’s worth. The appeal of the internet is that we can find all of that information quickly.

However, you notice people don’t just describe something as “good” or “bad.” Instead, they’ll often say, “This shirt is good quality” or “That restaurant is of good quality.” But is this correct?

Yes. “Good quality” is correct in this case. “Good quality” is one of many collocations where we use an adjective with the noun “quality” (source). It is part of a rating system that you use, for instance, to see the quality of a good or service.

Ratings include:

  • Poor quality
  • Fair quality
  • Good quality
  • High quality
  • Outstanding quality
  • Premium quality

People use different variations of these ratings in reviews, business, etc. For example, the adjectives “good” and “bad” are pretty straightforward, but “good quality” is a little more specific.

Some examples include:

  • This restaurant had good food and service.
  • This restaurant had food and service that was of good quality.

In each sentence, the adjective “good” describes the noun that follows, serving as the object. Since “good” can have more than one meaning, saying something is of “good quality” makes it clearer that you’re speaking of the quality of something rather than its propriety or moral goodness.

What Is Quality?

Image by Gerd Altmann via Pixabay

“Quality” can function as either a noun or an adjective. As a noun, “quality” refers to a thing, while the adjective is a descriptive term referring to something of a higher degree of excellence.

“Quality” as a Noun

As a noun, “quality” is a standard or characteristic of something or someone, whether good or bad (source). It also refers to a degree of excellence when rating the worth of something. For instance, people use “quality” to rank clothing, food, companies, etc. We might also use “quality” when assessing someone’s personality.

Etymology

English adopted the use of “quality” around 1300 as Middle English “qualite through Anglo-French “qualité,” which referred to the nature or characteristics of something (source).

The Old French form was “calite,” which came from the Latin “qualitatem,” the nominative form of “qualitas.” “Qualis” was the Latin word meaning “of what kind.” 

Etymologists believe that the ancient Roman statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 BC) coined the term “qualitatem,” translating it from the Greek ποιότης (poiotēs), which Aristotelian philosophers used frequently (source).

By the late 1300s, the English word gained the connotations of “an inherent attribute” or “degree of goodness or excellence.” As such, it often referred to someone’s social rank or their nobility by 1400.

According to The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “quality” is in the top 1% of word popularity that people look up and use.

Examples

We can use the noun “quality” in several different ways. As a noun, “quality” can function as the subject or an object in a sentence.

  • Agatha has a loving quality that draws people to her.

In this sentence, “quality” shows Agatha’s nature and a characteristic of her personality.

  • The two lawn care companies have differing quality of service.

According to customer comments, the two companies have a different grade or “quality” of work.

  • The quality of service you’ll receive during flight differs between coach and first-class.

Being in first class on the plane gets you better “quality” and treatment than just being in coach. 

As you can see, we can place an adjective in front of the noun “quality” to describe what sort of quality we’re referring to. Similarly, in two of the above examples, the prepositional phrase following the noun “quality” describes something further about the noun.

“Quality” as an Adjective

The adjective “quality” means “very good,” “excellent,” or “being of high quality,” and this usage appeared around 1936, according to Merriam-Webster.

  • The quality work she shows at her job makes her an asset to this company.

Here, the adjective “quality” describes the excellence of her work, indicating that she has a vital role in her job.

“Good” as an Adjective

“Good” is also an adjective that we use to describe something as of high quality, of somewhat high but not quite excellent quality, or as something correct or proper (source). 

This word describes how positive something, someone, or a situation is. We also use “good” to describe behavior, morals, or circumstances. While it can be a noun or adverb, the most common use of this word is as an adjective.

Let’s look at some examples:

  • I want to sit and enjoy a good book.
  • My grandmother is in good health.

In the first sentence, “good” describes the quality of the book and how enjoyable it will be. In the second sentence, “Good,” again, describes the quality or state of the grandmother’s health.

Now consider these examples:

  • Try to set a good example for the children.
  • If you’re a good girl at the doctor’s, we will get ice cream afterward.

Here, “good” can describe the morals of the parents for the children. You can also use “good” with religious principles. In the second example, “good” clearly describes the quality of behavior that the little girl needs to have.

Is “Good Quality” a Compound Adjective?

So if “good” is an adjective, and “quality” can be an adjective, is “good quality” a compound adjective? Also, if “quality” as an adjective means “high quality” and “good” as an adjective can mean “of high quality,” is “good quality” redundant? 

The answer is no. The compound adjective “good-quality” refers to a high standard, while the compound adjective “high-quality” refers to an even higher standard (source). As part of an adjective phrase, a type of prepositional phrase, “good quality” is still an adjective modifying a noun.

Compound adjectives and phrasal adjectives or adjective phrases are what we call compound modifiers (source).

The Compound Adjective “Good-Quality”

Compound words are two words that come together to form new meanings, and they can be closed, open, or hyphenated. A hyphen is a punctuation mark that you use to bring two or more words or prefixes together.

This is helpful with multiple adjectives that precede a noun to help clarify if those adjectives modify the noun or pronoun together or if the first adjective modifies what comes after. There are several instances where not using a hyphen can confuse your reader (source).

When we place the compound adjective before the noun it describes, we use the hyphenated form “good-quality” (source).

  • This company makes good-quality clothing.

However, when it comes after the noun it describes, we do not use a hyphen:

  • This company’s clothing is good quality.

Here, the predicate adjective “good quality” describes the “clothing” through the use of the linking verb “is.” This sounds a bit awkward, though, and we are more likely to use the adjective phrase instead.

The Phrasal Adjective “Good Quality”

In contrast, an adjective phrase is a type of prepositional phrase that modifies a noun or pronoun. Like all phrases, adjective phrases do not include a subject or a verb; otherwise, they constitute a complete sentence or clause (source).

Here, “good” (adjective) + “quality” (noun) work as a team in describing the standard of another word. As a noun, “quality” serves as the object of the preposition.

  • This clothing is of good quality.

The clothes are worth getting and wearing because they are “good quality.” The sentence shows “good quality” as an adjectival phrase after the preposition “of,” and it comes after the noun it describes, “clothing.” 

The same is true of the following sentence:

  • The restaurant’s sirloin steak is of good quality.

A customer would want a  steak that is of “good quality,” which is tender and flavorful.

“Good Quality” or “High Quality”

Image by Gerd Altmann via Pixabay

Both “good quality” and “high quality” generally refer to a high standard. However, “high quality” indicates a higher standard than “good quality.” “High” indicates a great distance or something of a greater amount, while “good” can sometimes imply that something is just good enough. 

Again, “high quality” is one of many collocations with “quality.” While it denotes something of very good quality, we can also say that something is of outstanding quality or premium quality if we want to use something a little stronger.

For example, when looking at a product, service, characteristic, etc., note which of the following sounds better.

  • The shoes are made with leather that is of good quality.
  • The shoes are made with leather that is of high quality.
  • The shoes are made with leather that is of premium quality.

The shoes with leather that is “of high quality” are of greater craftsmanship, and we would expect them to last longer than those of “good quality.”  In this case, “good quality” might imply that the shoes are comparatively cheap and would be more likely to fall apart.

On the other hand, “premium quality” gives the impression that the shoes exceed all normal expectations. One would also expect to pay a premium price for them as a result. 

“High quality” and “good quality” both follow the same rules for hyphenation that we discussed above. For more information on when to use the hyphen, check out the article “High Quality or High-Quality: Understanding When to Use a Hyphen.”

Some examples include:

  • The high-quality steak was the best I have ever eaten.
  • The best steak I have ever eaten was high quality.
  • The best steak I have ever eaten was of high quality.

In the first sentence, “high-quality” comes before the noun, “steak,” so it has a hyphen. In the second sentence, “high quality” comes after steak, so we do not need a hyphen. 

The last example does not use a compound adjective. Instead, it uses the prepositional phrase “of high quality,” where “quality” is the object of the preposition.

As you can see, “high quality” can be a compound adjective or an adjectival phrase. So, anywhere that you use “good quality,” replacing it with “high quality” will make it sound better and draw more attention.

  • I received a high-quality education at the university.
  • I received a good-quality education at the university.

This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.

In the first sentence, the student believes that the education they received was of a high quality or value. In contrast, the second sentence might give the impression that the quality was only decent.

Final Thoughts

We can use “quality” as a noun or an adjective. As a noun, we can use adjectives to describe it as good or bad on various levels. Something of “good quality” can be of high quality, but it can come off as mediocre compared to something specifically stated to be of high quality. 

Still, “good quality” as an adjective plus a noun generally describes something or someone as of a high standard. Similarly, as a hyphenated adjective or adjective phrase, we can use “good-quality” or “good quality” to describe something as of a relatively high standard.

Remember, the adjective phrase “of good quality” is a type of prepositional phrase containing an adjective and a noun. When we use the compound adjective form, we should use a hyphen when it goes before the noun or pronoun it describes but leave the hyphen out when it goes after the noun or pronoun.