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When and why do we use the word "both" in the phrase "to make ends meet" and is this phrase(to make ends meet) common in spoken English

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  • I think this NGram probably answers both of your questions: books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – JavaLatte
    Apr 9, 2016 at 16:49
  • I clarified the title since there is also "both to make ends meet and ...".
    – user3169
    Apr 9, 2016 at 18:13

3 Answers 3

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Two key facts:

  1. Most American and British speakers today say make ends meet without both.
  2. The version with both is still sometimes used in Indian English.

We can confirm this by searching the Corpus of Global Web-based English (GloWbE):

                         US      GB      IN
      make ends meet     1.88    1.74    1.06
 make both ends meet     0.02    0.02    0.25

   US = United States
   GB = Great Britain
   IN = India

For these searches, I set GloWbE to "per mil". That means the numbers above are how often each phrase occurs per million words. If you use GloWbE for this kind of search, I suggest you pick the same setting.

As you can see, make ends meet is overwhelmingly more common in American and British English today. The numbers also tell us that the version with both is used significantly more often in Indian English today than in American or British English.

There's no difference in meaning between the two versions of this phrase, and you can feel free to use this phrase in spoken English.

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As far as I know, it means to have enough money to reach the end of the month! Thus the first and the last day of the month meet happily, saving us some worry about what to eat ...

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The full expression is "to make both ends meet", but the shortened form "to make ends meet" is used as well. There is no difference.

You get your salary at the end of a month. If you still have some money left shortly before the end of the next month you make both ends meet. If you have already spent all your money some days before the end of the next month you have a problem und you didn't manage to make both ends meet.

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