Win or Earn? - Podcast Episode 33

Welcome to episode 33 of The English Sessions. Win or Earn?. I am your host and English teacher, Mike Butler. These podcasts can help you improve your English! Together, we will talk about grammar… pronunciation… structure... and have some fun too. Remember to visit my website, to contact me for private lessons, and for more content.

You can also read the transcript of this audio on the website, as you listen to this episode.

Listen for this word today:
To gamble - ‘to play games with the chance of winning money’. EXAMPLE: I gambled at the casino, and won $1,000,000!

Today we will talk about two verbs, ‘win’ and ‘earn’. Why? Because some learners are confused about the differences between these two verbs. Some learners think they have the same meaning, but they DO NOT.

I’m going to create a little story for you. I will use ‘earn’ and ‘win’ in the story. It will help you to understand the differences.

STORY: Hi! My name is Joe. I make money by selling chicken eggs. I earned a lot of money this year selling chicken eggs. I worked really hard this year, so I decided that I deserved a vacation. I’ve earned it, and I needed a break. I decided to go to Las Vegas, to gamble at the casinos! At first, it was great! I was winning a lot of money. On my last day of the trip, however, I lost all of the money that I had won from the casinos. I couldn’t stop gambling. It’s so addicting! Well, back to the farm. That’s the last time I’ll ever gamble all my hard-earned money away. The end.

You see, there is a pretty big difference in my story.

EARN - typically means that you worked hard for that money. Maybe you earn your money from a company; from your employer. An employee earns money. A chicken egg farmer earns money. Joe the egg farmer put in a lot of hard work to earn his money.

WIN - but ‘win’ typically means that you didn’t have to work for it. You can win money at a casino, gambling, or you can win money from the lottery.

These are the typical ways to use ‘earn’ and ‘win’. After the break, I will explain why there is sometimes confusion over these two verbs, and also explain some other ways to use ‘earn’ and ‘win’


Many of my learners know that I am learning Spanish as a second language. When I first learned the Spanish verb ‘ganar’, I translated it to English, and saw that it translated to both ‘earn’ and ‘win’. I said to myself, ‘how can this be?!’. ‘Earn’ and ‘win’ have two pretty different meanings! I know now, that this happens a lot in translation. I’ve come to accept it. If your native language is a Romance language like Spanish, then this translation may be why you confuse these two words.

My learners also know that I love etymology, that’s right, etymology, the history/origin of words. Sign up to the Patreon page to get exclusive episodes of Get The Word! My series on etymology ( )

So, let’s talk about another related word, ‘gain’. ‘Ganar’ is Spanish can also translate to ‘gain’. Based on my research, ‘ganar’ and ‘gain’ both have the same origin ( ). Evidence shows, though, that it’s surprisingly not from Latin. This word can refer to anything that can be considered an accomplishment. ‘Gain’ in English can be used to show that you succeeded in some way, or that you accomplished something. It can also mean that you have obtained something, and it’s almost always in a positive context. I gained an education from my university. I gained a lot of knowledge by listening to The English Sessions. But, sometimes, it can just mean an increase. I gained weight by eating a lot of chocolate. Some people want to gain weight, but many do not want to gain weight. So it’s not always positive.

The words ‘win’ and ‘earn’, however, are not related to the Romance languages, to the best of my knowledge.

WIN - The verb ‘win’ is of Germanic origin, that can also mean ‘acquire; take possession of’ something. I won money at the casino, and yes, technically, I took possession of that money. Sometimes, in certain contexts, ‘win’ can mean that you gained something through effort. For example, “I won the respect of my colleagues”; in other words: “I gain/earned the respect of my colleagues”. So, in this use, you gain the attention, support, or love, of something. It’s not about money in this context.

EARN - The verb ‘earn’ is also of Germanic origin. It’s related to the Old English word for ‘laborer’. That’s a good way to remember this one. Remember Joe the egg farmer? He labored, in order to make his money. He earned his money, because of his hard work, or labor.

So, remember, these words have a long, complicated history. If your native language is a Romance language, then you probably already know how and why the meaning of these words can be confusing in translation.

Most importantly, just remember, in the most common uses, ‘earn’ means that you worked to get something (You EARN money from your company), and ‘win’ means that you had success without much effort, or work (You WIN money at a casino, or from the lottery).

Any questions? Write to me at . Leave a message for me on the website, and I will play it on the podcast. Make sure to subscribe to this podcast so you won’t miss an episode. Visit for more content. Please rate and review The English Sessions on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Find us on social media. Twitter @theEsessions; Instagram @englishsessionswithmike; Search for The English Sessions on Facebook. Until next time, this is Mike signing off.  

Jason Shaw - Tennessee Hayride (music)




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