What’s the difference between “earn” and “win”?

Posted on December 21, 2018

By Emily Stallard, Owner at Orchid English

What’s the difference between “earn” and “win”? We hear these words used in place of each other a lot, especially by the professionals learning English with us in London who have a Latin language background.

 

Win

How often do you win money? At the end of every month? If so, you must have been born under a lucky star, that is, you must be an extremely lucky person. I think the last time I won any money was four years ago on a scratchcard, and then I only won my own money back. Not much to write home about…

 

Winning is usually by chance as in the example of the lottery, or you can win a game or competition. What is your favourite game? I love playing tennis and the climate in London means you can usually play tennis all year round – it doesn’t get too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter. When I play with friends we never play to win, we don’t keep score.

 

This holiday season is a good one to play board games with family. My favourite board game is Scrabble, where you compete to make high-scoring words from randomly picked letters. In our family we are constantly bemused that our grandmother can still win despite her advancing years.

 

Earn

Earning money is getting money from your job. If you work hard at the right company you can of course also earn a promotion or pay rise. Earning is not by chance, it’s something you deserve through work. At this time of year lots of us feel that after a long stretch of hard work we have earned a relaxing break.

 

Note the overlap here: did you see Usain Bolt win gold in the Olympics? He trained so much that he really earned it.

 

Bonus English tip about money

While we’re on the subject of earning money, there is another mistake that people learning English make. Describing a salary as “interesting”. Remember that in British culture we often use understatement and euphemisms, so something negative can be “interesting”.

 

  • How is your new colleague?
  • Umm, interesting.

 

Depending on the tone, we could understand that this new colleague is perhaps a bit weird, the speaker has mixed feelings, they dislike the colleague or really find them to have a lot of interesting things to say.

 

So interesting doesn’t necessarily mean “good”. And just having more money isn’t “interesting” because there’s nothing intriguing about an amount of money in itself. You could buy lots of interesting things but that’s another matter. Instead of “an interesting salary” you should say “a good salary”, or “a higher salary”.

 

So that was the difference between “earn” and “win”. I hope it was useful, and that you have a great winter break!

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