Who can say the differences between them?

2 Answers 2


For all intents and purposes, make a living and earn a living are identical in meaning. There is a very slight difference in register, in that make is a teeny-tiny bit more informal than earn, but it's such a small difference that it can be ignored in most situations. There's also an almost-infinitesimal difference in connotation: using "make" rather than "earn" can imply that you're not working "in your field". For example, if someone with a degree in art history had a job at a museum, they'd be more likely to call it "earning a living", whereas if the same art history graduate had a job at Walmart, they'd be more likely to call it "making a living".1

1Well, OK, if they're really working at Walmart they'd actually be more likely to call it "just barely scraping by", but that's a different subject.


They mean the same thing but earn a living specifies how the action happens.

  • 3
    Can you use each in a sentence to illustrate this difference?
    – Adam
    Jan 28, 2015 at 19:02
  • 2
    You could say "I make a living as a painter" or "I earn a living as a painter", about equivalent. Today, "earn" might be a bit more formal, "make" colloquial. Jan 28, 2015 at 19:03
  • 1
    What do you mean that earn a living specifies how the action happens? It's no more specific than make a living.
    – nnnnnn
    Jun 5, 2016 at 0:09

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