Number one for English language teachers

Your English: Collocations: win/earn/gain

Type: Article

Always winning a lot of support for his weekly articles, Tim Bowen returns to lead us through collocates of the connected verbs win, earn and gain.

The verbs win, earn and gain have broadly similar meanings related to getting or achieving something. Where these verbs clearly differ, however, is in the nouns or noun phrases they collocate with.

You can win a sporting event (a match, a race, a game) or a competition (e.g. the lottery), and for this achievement you might win a cup, a medal or a prize. British sportsmen and women who represent their country in international matches in football, rugby or cricket win a cap. Away from the world of sport, you can also win a contract, win the right to do something or win support or approval, as in ‘The bill is winning a lot of support from farmers’.

Apart from earning money or earning a salary, you might also need to earn your keep (by working for the people you live with) and, in order to pay for everything you need, you will need to earn a living. If you are unfortunate enough to have a hand-to-mouth existence, you probably earn a crust whenever the opportunity arises (earn just enough money to live on), as in ‘I’ve been an actor for years, earning a crust wherever I can ‘.

You can gain weight, speed or momentum, as in 'The toboggan sped down the hill, gaining momentum'. You can also gain an advantage, as in 'Some people try to gain an advantage by using their personal contacts'. Gain also goes with nouns such as access, admission and entry, as in ‘He gained entry to the building using a fake pass’. Other nouns frequently used with gain include experience, acceptance, ground and time.

However, at least one noun collocates with all three verbs. You can earn respect, gain respect or win respect, all of which involving getting respect as a result of your efforts or your behaviour.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Fantastic, I'm going to use this as part of our target language during adult learner classes.

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