Engoo Blog Language Tips

"Worth": Very Valuable English Vocabulary

"Worth": Very Valuable English Vocabulary

What comes to mind when you think of the word “worth”? Do you think about items and prices?

If you do, you are correct. However, worth can be used for much more than just talking about how much something costs.

This article will take a closer look at the many ways English speakers can use this word. After that, we’ll introduce some common idioms in which you’ll find it.

The main uses of “worth”

The most important idea connected to all of the uses of worth is value. If A is worth B, it means A and B have a similar value. Let’s see how this idea is expressed in each use of worth.

As an adjective • money

An inspector checking the value of a house

Worth is most often used as an adjective. Although value can be measured in many ways, it is commonly measured in money. Look at the following examples:

My used car is worth about $13,000.
That famous painting is worth millions of dollars.
How much is our house worth?

Even people can have a value measured in dollars. However, we usually use worth this way only for very wealthy individuals like successful business people and celebrities.

The young CEO is worth over 2 billion dollars.

Sometimes the specific number value is not mentioned.

These old shoes aren’t worth much.
Some Pokémon trading cards are worth a lot of money.

As an adjective • time and effort

Value is not always measured in money. Therefore, you can also use worth to refer to the time or effort required to do or get something.

Climbing the mountain was difficult, but the view from the top was worth the effort.
= The view was equal to or greater than the hard work of climbing.
The food wasn’t worth the time we spent waiting to get into the restaurant.
= The taste didn't equal the value of the time spent waiting.
The weather’s not so good, so I don’t think it’s worth going to the park today.
= The effort necessary for going to the park wouldn't be equal to the fun we would have there.

As a noun

A couple shopping for apples in a supermarket

As a noun, worth means “the value of something.”

We buy a week's worth of food every time we go to the supermarket.
= enough food for one week
He's an advanced student, so he finished a year's worth of classes in only six months.
= enough classes to equal a year in school

You can also use worth in this way to talk about a person's value. This value could come from skill, knowledge, influence or other positive things.

If you want to keep your job, you have to prove your worth to the company.
Everyone on the team understood Stephanie's worth when she successfully negotiated a great deal for the company.

The difference between “worth” and “cost”

A worker in a clothing store showing a shirt to a customer

When talking about buying things, you may be wondering how worth is different from “cost” since both are related to value. 

For example, a staff member in a store may say a shirt "costs $30," but they would not say it is “worth $30.” But why?

We use cost when something is for sale and can be bought.

This jacket costs $80.
How much did those shoes cost?

We use worth when talking about what a price might be if it were sold.

The company is worth much less than what many investors believe.
These antiques are only worth a few dollars, but I don't want to sell them.

This is why you can say that a famous painting is “worth” millions of dollars; if the museum is not selling it, saying it “costs” millions of dollars would be incorrect.

Expressions using “worth”

A collection of very valuable vintage books

Worth its weight in gold

This means that someone or something is very valuable.

That collection of rare books is worth its weight in gold.

Worth a fortune

A "fortune" is a treasure or a collection of very valuable items. This is a casual way to say that something has a high value. 

Missing for many years, the famous artist's early paintings were worth a fortune to collectors.

Not worth the trouble

As we mentioned earlier, value can also be measured in effort and time. If something is "worth the trouble of doing," the result is equal to or greater than what must be given to get it. However, this expression is usually used in the negative sense.

You could try moving your heavy furniture yourself, but it's not worth the trouble. Just hire professionals instead.

For what it’s worth

People often use this expression when they give advice or share their opinion about something. It's another way of saying, "This may not be useful or important to you, but~"

For what it's worth, I think you two would make a good couple.
For what it's worth, that's the most popular restaurant in town.

You might see this written as "FWIW" online and in text messages. 

Worth it

This is a very common expression that means something is good or recommended even if it requires time, money or effort to get. It can be used positively or negatively.

The concert tickets were really expensive, but the show was worth it!
We want to visit the new exhibition at the museum.
I went last weekend. It’s not worth it.


Did you know worth could be used in so many ways?

As an adjective, a noun and in common idioms, it's a useful word that can be heard in many everyday conversations. Make sure you study it well because it's definitely worth learning!