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Which Is Correct: Highly Recommended or Strongly Recommended?

In English, we qualify our adjectives by adding words in front of them. In the case of something that is “recommended,” we may wonder if it is correct to say it is “highly recommended” or if we should instead choose “strongly recommended”?

If we describe something as “highly recommended,” we say many hold a favorable opinion of it. But if we describe something as “strongly recommended,” we forcefully advise someone about it. The first emphasizes people’s opinions, while the second emphasizes a veiled command. Therefore, both are correct depending on the context.

The difference may seem very subtle, but the meaning is actually quite different. Read on to understand these two terms and how we use them. We’ll also explore participle adjectives and adjective phrases.

What Does “Highly Recommended” Mean?

“Highly recommended” means something is regarded with favor or is generally spoken highly of. When something comes “highly recommended,” other people have experienced it favorably (source).

On the other hand, “strongly recommended” means the advice or recommendation is coming to you with a strong opinion, and you are being urged to either do or not do that thing. 

The word “recommend” is a verb that means to endorse something, make something acceptable, or suggest a course of action (source). You can use it with subtle variations in meaning, as illustrated in the table below.

MeaningSentence Example
to endorseHe recommended this brank of sportswear.
to suggest an actionI recommend that you train for at least three months before attempting a marathon.
to make something acceptableThe bedrooms in this hotel are awful; I hope it has other qualities to recommend it!

The adverb “highly” means “to a substantial degree” or “very.” The adverb “strongly” means “very much” or “in a serious way” (source).

Therefore, if you say something is “highly recommended,” it is endorsed substantially. But, if you say something is “strongly recommended,” it is suggested seriously. 

How Do You Use “Highly Recommended”?

We use “highly recommended” to describe something many other people have approved. We say something (or someone) is “highly recommended” if it has a good reputation. 

Because “highly recommended” is an adjective, it needs to describe something or someone. You would therefore use it in a sentence either before the noun or after the verb, as shown below:

  • This is a highly recommended restaurant.
  • This restaurant is highly recommended.

When you use “highly recommended” as an adjective, the verb “recommend” forms a past participle adjective: “recommended.”  You could also say “highly recommend” in the present tense, but then “recommend” would be the verb in the sentence, and “highly” would be an adverb that qualifies that verb, as shown below.

  • I highly recommend the pork belly.

You would generally use “highly recommended” with the verb “is” or the verb “comes.” The examples above show how we use “is,” but it’s also common to use “comes” where “come” means to exist, as shown below:

  • This restaurant comes highly recommended.
  • Dr. Gilbert comes highly recommended as a cardiologist. 

You can use “strongly recommended” if you are advising a course of behavior and want to emphasize that one should follow the advice. Again, “strongly recommended” is an adjective often functioning as a subject complement after a linking verb, as shown below:

  • It is strongly recommended that you renew your passport before it expires.
  • Wearing a hard hat on the building site is strongly recommended.

Again, you can use “recommend” as a verb, as shown below.

  • She strongly recommended that we avoid using the highway today.
  • I strongly recommend that you follow the doctor’s advice. 

As you can see, “strongly recommended” is most often followed by “that” unless you place it at the end of a sentence. 

When Can You Use “Highly Recommended”?

You can use “highly recommended” whenever you want to express to someone that others have endorsed something. It’s appropriate in many different settings.

You may say something is “highly recommended” when you’ve read good reviews about it or when friends or colleagues have spoken favorably about it. It could be a restaurant, a hotel, or a service provider.

We use “highly recommended” to describe something; in this context, it’s always in the past tense because it’s already been reviewed. 

You can use “strongly recommended” any time you want to encourage someone to do something (or not to do something), usually implying that the advice is based on experience.

You might say, “It’s strongly recommended that you use a life jacket when waterskiing,” and you would suggest that the person you are speaking to use a life jacket.

To add more information to a sentence like this, you could say something like, “After last week’s incident, it’s strongly recommended that you use a life jacket when waterskiing.”

This would imply that something went wrong when someone didn’t use a life jacket, and therefore, based on experience, it’s recommended that you follow the strong suggestion to use one.

In What Context Can You Use “Highly Recommended”?

We use “highly recommended” when describing that other people have experienced something and they view it favorably. We primarily use it in conversation, but we could use it in writing too.

It’s a semiformal way of saying that something has had good reviews, so it’s likely that you’d use it in polite company. We often use it when describing an experience or service provider.

Similarly, we use “strongly recommended” in polite company when we don’t want to order someone to do something overtly but want to suggest something in a very definite way. Again, this could be in conversation or in writing. If we were being less polite, we might say something like, “You really should…” or something similar. 

Using “Highly Recommended” in a Full Sentence

You may use “highly recommended” anywhere you can use an adjective. You can place it immediately before the noun it modifies or as a subject complement after a linking or stative verb.

We have already considered many examples where we use “highly recommended” in a full sentence. Let’s consider some others. The following are all subject complements:

  • This hotel comes highly recommended. I hope you like it.
  • I’ve made an appointment with Dr. Smith because he’s highly recommended.
  • The chocolate mousse at La Maison is highly recommended.
  • She comes highly recommended in family law.
  • Princeton is a highly recommended university.

To illustrate the difference with “strongly recommended,” let’s also consider some sentences that show its meaning.

  • It’s strongly recommended that you wear safety goggles for this experiment.
  • Having a solid lock for your locker is strongly recommended at this school.
  • She strongly recommended that I complete my degree rather than drop out.
  • Jack strongly recommended that Andy avoid that restaurant.
  • I strongly recommend that you look carefully before crossing the road.

Though the difference between “strongly recommended” and “highly recommended” may seem interchangeable in informal conversation contexts, you should use them properly in writing, semi-formal contexts, and legal contexts.

When Not to Use “Highly Recommended”

We don’t use “highly recommended” when we actually mean to encourage specific behavior. Instead, we should use “strongly recommended.” You should not use “highly recommended” unless you are aware that others have a broadly positive opinion about something.

If we say something is “highly recommended,” we imply that we know what others think about it. If it’s just your own opinion, then you should say “I recommend….” 

People often use “strongly recommended” and “highly recommended” interchangeably, but that is incorrect. You should use “strongly recommended” when urging someone to do something and “highly recommended” when describing popular opinion.

What Can You Use Instead of “Highly Recommended”?

There are several other ways to say something is “highly recommended.” You could say something is “highly regarded” or “favorably considered,” or you could find other ways to reword the sentence to mean the same thing.

Let’s consider “This restaurant comes highly recommended” and explore other ways of saying it.

  • This restaurant is highly regarded.
  • This restaurant is favorably considered.
  • This restaurant is trendy. 
  • This restaurant is well-liked.
  • Many people rate this restaurant highly.
  • Many people consider this an excellent restaurant.
  • Many people hold this restaurant in high esteem.

Your choice depends on who you address and how formal you need to be.

There are also several alternatives to “strongly recommended.” Let’s consider “It’s strongly recommended that you wear protective clothing on the building site” and explore other ways of saying it.

  • It’s strongly suggested that you wear protective clothing on the building site.
  • It’s strongly advised that you wear protective clothing on the building site.
  • It’s heartily advised that you wear protective clothing on the building site.
  • It’s definitely preferable that you wear protective clothing on the building site.
  • It’s advisable that you wear protective clothing on the building site.

Participle Adjectives

We often come across adjectives that end in -ed or -ing. These are participle adjectives because they end in the same way as verb participles (source). You can usually modify them like other verbs by adding words like “very” or “highly” in front of them.

Image by picjumbo_com via Pixabay

“Recommended” is, therefore, a participle adjective because it has the -ed ending and can be modified by “highly.” In this case, there is a verb that corresponds – “to recommend” – but this is not always the case. Think about participle adjectives like “talented” or “black-headed.”

You can use participle adjectives in two ways – either attributively or predicatively. This means you can use them to modify the noun, as in “a talented swimmer,” or follow the verb, as in “The swimmer is talented.”

The table below shows some common participle adjectives and how you can use them in a sentence.

Participle AdjectiveExample Sentence
She is interested in biology.
That is a very interesting book.
Jane was amused by Jack’s antics.
Chris told an amusing story.
Mary gave a disappointed sigh when she heard the news.
This is a very disappointing report card.
I have a very excited toddler at the prospect of a party.
The exciting news will have to wait until after dinner.
I am so bored with this lecturer.
That speech was incredibly boring.

Some, like these above, have both -ed and -ing alternatives. Others, like “recommended,” only exist in one or the other. “Recommending” is simply the participle of the verb “to recommend,” but you cannot use it as a participle adjective.

To learn more about participle adjectives, read our articles “Desert” or “Deserted”: What’s the Difference? and Is It Correct to Say “Well Received”?

Adjectives and Adjective Phrases

Adjectives describe words or words that qualify a noun. Sometimes, an adjective is more than one word, which makes it an adjective phrase. An adjective phrase always contains an adjective (which acts as the “head”) and then other words that modify or complement the adjective (source).

The adjective phrase “highly recommended” has “recommended” as the adjective or head. It is modified by the adverb “highly.”

Let’s consider some other examples where other words modify the adjective. Note that these words usually precede the adjective but can come afterward in some instances (such as the final example). 

  • This winter was extremely cold.
  • She’s pretty good at swimming.
  • Andrew is absolutely crazy about chocolate.
  • Is this bath water warm enough for you?

Sometimes, we add more than just one word to modify the adjective, as shown below:

  • He was aware of the risks of climbing alone.
  • We’ll accept any keen and motivated participants.

Sometimes, an adjective phrase can contain a modifier before the adjective and a further phrase after the adjective that complements the adjective. This further phrase is typically prepositional, as shown below:

  • I’m very enthusiastic about trying interesting new foods.
  • She isn’t really enthralled by modern art

Final Thoughts

It’s always interesting to find expressions that look and seem similar in English that actually mean different things. “Highly recommended” and “strongly recommended” are examples of this because, although they might appear similar, we use them very differently.

We use “strongly recommended” to promote a specific opinion. We’re suggesting that you do or don’t do something. However, when we use “highly recommended,” we share a favorable opinion of something and encourage someone to experience it.

These are adjective phrases made up of the participle adjective “recommended.” We use other adjective phrases constantly to make our language more affluent and enjoyable.