Which word is correct?

I believe today's younger generation are more attracted by flexible working hours than by the thought of earning money / wages.

(Cullen, French, and Jakeman (2014) The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS for Academic and General Training, Cambridge University Press. p. 126)

Both words appear correct to me, perhaps "wages" sounding more formal. While Google Ngram shows "earning money" as commonly used, it shows "earning wages" as fairly common as well. The text claims "money" to be correct and "wages" incorrect. Why is "wages" not correct here?

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    It is NOT a question of correctness. Both expressions are perfectly correct. If you are asking which is more popular and generally applicable, it's earning money, as the Ngram illustrates. Commented May 23, 2022 at 23:38
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    The word "wage" brings to mind an amount earned per hour. "Money" is the better choice, in my opinion, when you're referring to the general desire for wealth.
    – cruthers
    Commented May 24, 2022 at 0:43
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    Earning more money would result in higher wages. While technically a wage would refer to a fixed regular payment, like what you would get for a day labor rate or a salaried job. In practice, I think when people refer to their paychecks or earnings they also substitute wages.
    – Patrick H.
    Commented May 24, 2022 at 4:16
  • @cruthers - in the UK, at least, you can talk about an hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly wage quite naturally. "a fixed regular payment earned for work or services, typically paid on a daily or weekly basis." - Oxford. Commented May 24, 2022 at 6:33
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    Both are 100% correct. If you're expected to choose between them based on naturalness, then "money" is slightly better, but not so much better that it's worth testing knowledge of the difference. Disappointed in Cambridge there
    – gotube
    Commented May 25, 2022 at 22:36

1 Answer 1


Not sure about BRE but in AME usage "wages" is a particular form of income. Namely, payment rendered for hours worked. The other primary form of employment relationship is salaried, where a fixed payment is provided regardless of the number of hours worked.

There are also non-employee forms of income, such as being self-employed, or investment returns.

In the cited passage I believe the point is more that people are willing to settle for lower payouts (however structured) in exchange for more flexibility in their free time. And in that usage I would probably choose "wages" as it is directly tied to an employer/employee relationship, unlike "earning money".

  • in AME usage "wages" is a particular form of income - that is a distinction that I'm not sure too many Americans are aware of or will use precisely.
    – stangdon
    Commented May 24, 2022 at 0:00
  • The BrE/AmE difference is that in BrE a 'wage' is what you get paid for your work, whether on a contracted or piecework basis or from a regular employment. Commented May 24, 2022 at 6:36
  • On a test of English competence, would you say either "money" or "wages" is wrong?
    – gotube
    Commented May 25, 2022 at 22:37

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