2

a run for your money

✦Someone who gives you a (good) run for your money in a game or contest makes it difficult for you to win by trying hard and playing or performing well.

Though they lost, they gave last year's champions a run for their money.

Source: Merriam-Webster’s Advanced Learner’s English Dictionary

If there were two strong contestants, could either one, winner or loser, say the expression above about the other? Or, in other words, could a reviewer/commentator use the expression to praise the winner or console the loser?

  • 1
    Short answer : Yes. The winner could say to the loser "Well, at least you gave me a run for my money." The loser could console himself with "I didn't win, but I gave him a run for his money!" – sammy gerbil Sep 10 '16 at 1:10
5

A run for their money is not a phrase I would ever say use in connection with the winner of a contest. The idiom, as this native US English speaker understands it, means that you made the winner work very hard for the win. Because it essentially means "a difficult challenge", it doesn't really make sense to say it about the winner of a contest - they didn't just make the loser work hard to overcome a challenge, they beat the loser!

Some examples of the phrase in live usage:

...they're really interested in giving the consultancies a run for their money. "We want to undercut those guys," Goldsmith says bluntly.

Here the author is saying that "they" are interested in posing a difficult challenge to the consultancies and make them work hard.

If Ali had still been in the ring, Levi looked like he would've given him a run for his money.

Here the author is saying that although Levi might not have been able to beat the boxer Muhammad Ali, Levi would have been able to put up a strong fight.

Meanwhile, Roy and I headed down river where Fiona's boat gave us a run for our money.

Here, the author is saying that he and Roy were challenged by Fiona's boat (although they did manage to catch it in the end).

  • 2
    I'm not convinced yet that the quote by Goldsmith supports this answer. Goldsmith is not interested in making Gartner Group work hard to take an account from him; he is interested in winning accounts. (It is possible that the phrase was misused in this case, however.) – David K Sep 10 '16 at 0:54
  • @DavidK An account meaning a customer as in "Biggart Donald, the Glasgow-based marketing agency, has won two Edinburgh accounts" from Collins COBUILD Advanced Learner's English Dictionary?- Sorry my business English is not that great. – learner Sep 10 '16 at 7:42
  • @DavidK - No, I don't think that Goldsmith is interested in making Gartner work hard specifically to take an account from him, but interested in making Gartner work hard, yes. – stangdon Sep 10 '16 at 14:56
  • 1
    @learner Yes, I mean Goldsmith expects to win customers. I agree with the main conclusion of the answer above; I merely think the writer of the article about Goldsmith used the idiom in a questionable way (because someone expects to give someone else "a run for his money" and then win.) – David K Sep 10 '16 at 15:46
  • In other words, because I agree with the main point of this answer, I question whether the writer of that article used the phrase correctly. – David K Sep 10 '16 at 15:53
4

If there were two strong contestants, could either one, winner or loser, say the expression above about the other?

Assuming there is a competition between two strong contestants, and a winner and loser have been determined, consider the following:

  1. You gave me a run for my money.
  2. I gave you a run for your money.

Usually 1 implies that the speaker is a winner. That is why the winner can say 1. It would strike me as odd if the loser said 1 because the loser did not win. So the loser can say 2. It implies that the speaker is the loser.

Or, in other words, could a reviewer/commentator use the expression to praise the winner or console the loser?

  1. Though they lost, they gave last year's champions a run for their money.

1, 2, and 3 are not used to praise the winner. The idiom expresses that the loser performed well. So 1,2, and 3 can be interpreted or used as consolation towards the loser (but not praise towards the winner).

For your reference, the idiom has other meanings.

give you a run for your money

  1. to be as good at something as someone who is known to be extremely good
    He was a very good actor and could have given any professional a run for his money.
  2. to compete very strongly against someone who is expected to win a competition
    I think only Liverpool will be able to give Manchester United a run for their money next season.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.