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What’s the difference between win and earn?

The verbs win and earn often cause problems for learners of English.

The basic difference is as follows: win refers to competition, while earn refers to money or effort.

Keep reading to learn the differences between these two verbs, then put your knowledge to the test in the free interactive exercises.


Lucy came first and won the race. She won against the older girls in her class and that made her very happy.

She won a gold medal and earned the respect of all of her classmates.

Lucy wonders if one day, she might earn a living from races …


  • get money for work that you do
Professional runners earn money for racing.
  • deserve something because you have worked hard for it
She worked hard to earn the respect of her team mates.
  • earn a living = work to get enough money to live
Lucy would like to earn a living from racing.
  • earn a fortune = make a lot of money
If Lucy had some sponsors, she could earn a fortune.


  • come first in a competition, game or race
Lucy won the race.
  • receive an award or prize
Lucy won three blue ribbons at the swimming carnival.
Lucy’s mum won £1,000,000 at the lottery.
  • win against = defeat somebody/something
She could win against anyone in our class.
  • win at something = be very good or even the best at something
She always wins at races, but she never wins at chess.
  • here are some things that you can win:
win +
a competition (the lottery, an election, a contract)
a sports event (a race, a match, a game)
an argument, a debate, a battle, fight
a prize (money, a trophey, a car etc.)
support, approval