How to Use “Worth”

“I’ve learnt that anything in life worth having comes from patience and hard work.”

Greg Behrendt, an American comedian and author

“Worth” is a very handy word, which is unfortunately often used wrong. The aim of this post is to help you learn everything about the word so that you can use “worth” correctly.

“WORTH” AS AN ADJECTIVE

If something is worth a particular amount of money, it can be sold for that amount or is considered to have that value:

The contract was worth £25 million a year.

Our house is worth about 600,000 Euros.

The computer market is worth billions of dollars.

This sculpture will be worth a fortune.

Please note that something that is worthless is of no real value or use. The opposite is priceless:

This is a worthless piece of old junk (it has no value in money). He made me feel stupid and worthless (unimportant).

These are the priceless treasures of the Royal Collection (they are very valuable). A trip round the world is a priceless opportunity (it’s very important).

If you say that something is worth having, you mean that it is pleasant or useful, and therefore a good thing to have. Of course, you can also say that something is worth seeing, doing, visiting, watching, etc.:

Most things worth having never come easy.

It’s not as good as his last book but it’s definitely worth reading.

The place is very beautiful and therefore worth visiting.

The film was definitely worth seeing.

If something is worth a particular action, or if an action is worth doing, it is considered to be important enough for that action:

I am spending a lot of money and time on this boat, but it is worth it.

This restaurant is well worth a visit. (it’s really worth a visit)

It was hard work, but it was worth it in the end.

Your plan is risky but it’s worth a try.

“WORTH” AS A NOUN

“Worth” combines with amounts of money, so that when you talk about a particular amount of money‘s worth of something, you mean the quantity of it that you can buy for that amount of money:

I put £2 worth of stamps on the letter. (I spent £2 on the stamps which I put on the letter)

Thieves smashed the shop window and stole $50,000 worth of computer equipment. (they stole computer equipment which could be sold for $50,000)

The hurricane caused $1,000,000 worth of damage. (it would cost $1,000,000 to repair the damage)

“Worth” combines with time expressions, so you can use it when you are saying how long an amount of something will last:

With this plan you’ve got an hour’s worth of free phone calls.

They’ve produced five hours’ worth of videos showing the glories of Scotland.

You’ve got three years’ worth of research money.

Someone’s worth is the value, usefulness, or importance that they are considered to have. This sounds quite formal:

He had never had a woman of her worth as a friend.

The United Nations has proved its worth over the years.

She’s finally proved her worth.

USEFUL EXPRESSIONS

  • For all you are worthif you do something for all you are worth, you put a lot of effort into it: We pushed the car for all we were worth, but we still couldn’t get it started. We both began waving to the crowd for all we were worth (with a lot of energy and enthusiasm). 
  • For all it is worth – if someone does something for all it is worth, they do it as much as possible and for as long as they can get benefit from it: Let’s exploit the idea for all it’s worth. We’d be crazy not to squeeze it for all it’s worth.
  • For what it’s worth – used when you are telling someone something and you are not sure how useful it is. This is sometimes shown in emails as FWIW: That’s my opinion, for what it’s worth. For what it’s worth, I don’t think we can do anymore until we get more training.
  • To be (well) worth your while – if an action or activity is worth someone’s while, it will be helpful, useful, or enjoyable for them if they do it, even though it requires some effort: It would be well worth your while to come to the meeting. It’s not worth their while when most of their profits go in taxes.
  • To be worthwhile – if something is worthwhile, it is enjoyable or useful, and worth the time, money, or effort that is spent on it: It might be worthwhile to consider your attitude. This is a worthwhile project. 
  • To be worthy – a worthy person or thing has qualities that make people respect them: They are worthy members of the community. The money will go to a worthy cause. You can refer to worthy people as worthies: A group of local worthies began to plan their own exhibition. If a person or thing is worthy of something, they deserve it because they have the qualities or abilities required (formal language): The bank might think you’re worthy of a loan. Local councillors decided the plan was worthy of support.
  • Self-worth – the feeling that you have good qualities and have achieved good things: Try not to link your sense of self-worth to the opinions of others. Praise helps children develop a sense of self-worth.
  • To be not worth the paper it’s printed on – used for saying that something printed is not reliable and has no value: Due to the recent hyperinflation, the nation’s currency is now not worth the paper it’s printed on. The guarantees aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.
  • What’s it worth (to you)? (informal, humorous) – used for asking someone what reward they will give you if you do what they want: “Do you know where Dave’s living now?” “What’s it worth?” “Do you know where my watch is?” “Yes. What’s it worth to you? – What? Give me the watch!”
  • To be worth your salt – to be respected by other people because you do your job well: Any teacher worth his/her salt is able to inspire his/her students. Any politician worth their salt will keep their campaign promises.
  • To get your money’s worth – to feel that something you have got is worth the amount you paid for it: The fans get their money’s worth. Get there early to make sure you get your money’s worth.
  • The game isn’t worth the candle – if you say that the game is not worth the candle, you mean that something is not worth the trouble or effort needed to achieve or obtain it (old-fashioned language): After trying to get permission to build the office for a whole year, we gave up, because the game was just not worth the candle. One point was that any solution that does not address Africa’s concerns is not worth the candle.
  • To be worth your weight in gold – to be extremely useful or valuable: We have a team manager who’s worth his weight in gold. Any successful leader is worth his/her weight in gold.
  • Your two cents’ worth (“your 2 pence worth” is British English) – your opinion about something: Please leave your two cents’ worth explaining your answer! Your father kept telling me to do that, but you know me, I had to put in my two cents’ worth.
  • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bushhaving something for certain is better than the possibility of getting something better: I might get a better offer, but a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Bill has offered to buy my car for $3,000 cash. Someone else might paymore, but a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

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