Award vs. Reward

16 June 2023

Hello! This week on Ask a Teacher, we will answer a question about the difference between "award" and "reward."


I am Li from China. I have been listening [to] the VOA Learning English podcast [for] more than one year.

Ask a Teacher: Award vs. Reward
Ask a Teacher: Award vs. Reward

I have benefitted a lot from your program. Can you clarify the meaning of "award" and "reward?" I am always confused (about) the two words.

Best regards,



Thanks for writing to us, Li.

"Award" and "reward" have similar meanings. They both can be different parts of speech - nouns and verbs. They are something you get for your behavior, but there are major differences. Let's look more deeply at each word.


"An award" is a noun. It is something valuable that is given, like a prize, to someone for their accomplishments. "Awards" are usually given by someone to someone else.

The student received an award from the teacher for not missing any school days.

As a verb, "award" means to give someone something, like a prize or money, for an accomplishment.

The judges awarded first place to the dance group.

In the area of law, "award" has slightly different meanings.

As a verb, "award" means to give an official judgment of an amount or sum of money. As a noun, "award" is the amount of money the court or judge decides.

The judge awarded money to the victims.

The award totaled 2.5 million dollars.

Let's move on to "reward."


"A reward" is a benefit given to someone in exchange for a certain behavior or action.

The reward for all the students passing the test was an ice cream party.

There is a $500 reward for returning the lost dog.

"Reward" as a verb means to give someone a reward for their actions or behavior.

I rewarded my cat with some fish after he did a trick.

Sometimes you do not need anyone to reward you. You can reward yourself.

Victoria rewarded herself with a weekend trip to the countryside after a hard work week.

Remember, "award" is based on accomplishments. And "reward" is based on behaviors or actions.

Please let us know if these explanations and examples have helped you, Li.

What question do you have about American English? Send us an email at

And that's Ask a Teacher.

I'm Faith Pirlo.

Faith Pirlo wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

accomplishment n. the successful completion of something

benefit – n. something extra given to workers by an employer in addition to their regular pay