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english isn’t my first language and I don’t really have anyone to speak english to so I’m not very good with idioms and specific expressions and their nuances. The other day I wanted to use the phrase “earn one’s (mine in this case) interest” but now I hesitate. I think I’ve seen this phrase being used in formal situations like business email etc. but I was wondering if it’s ok to use this phrase when talking to someone on the same level or on a friendly conversation. it feels like I’m looking down on my partner like: rejoice, you tried hard and now you have managed to grab my attention.. could you explain how you feel about it or provide similar substitutes if necessary?

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    To me the phrase earn interest ineradicably suggests the financial sense, and I would be thrown by hearing it used in the sense you mean.
    – Colin Fine
    Oct 13 '20 at 21:50
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It is perfectly fine to say "you've earned my interest" however, I would avoid using it as just "earn interest" because that is mainly used in a banking context.

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  • "mainly used in a banking context." - at last! Thank you. Oct 14 '20 at 6:23
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You have phrased this question so modestly and so clearly that you have earned my interest, engaged my attention, and interested me in you. I am all ears, and am keen to hear what you have to say. You have caught my eye with your remarks. There is a variety of relevant sayings that you may use, and "earn my attention" is one of them.

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Assuming you are talking to someone who you work with everyday or live with, it does sound condescending. It suggests that normally the person is not worth your attention/interest, and only when they did something special did you notice them. It can be perfectly acceptable in other cases when speaking to a stranger or casual acquaintance -- someone who you would not normally be expected to pay attention to.

Informal alternatives are basically any way to indicate interest, without being overly precise. Mostly they are short exclamatory sentences:

  • Interesting! or Interesting...
  • Wow! / Cool! / Tell me more!
  • Active listening strategies: e.g., eye contact, body language, asking well-thought-out followup questions.

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