‘What's In It For Me?’: Definition, Meaning, and Examples

By Sophia Merton, updated on March 3, 2023

Did you ask someone if they would be willing to do something, and they asked, ‘what’s in it for me?’ If you’re wondering what this means, you’ve come to the right place.

‘What’s in it for me’ is a phrase that poses the question of what benefit or advantage an action, situation, or activity will offer someone. You could also ask, ‘what’s in it for you?’ if you are curious to learn someone’s motives behind a proposed action or use another appropriate pronoun or proper noun depending on the context.

What Does 'What's In It For Me?' Mean?

‘What’s in it for me?’ is an idiom that you might hear if you ask someone to do something for you. When someone asks this question, they are asking, “what are the advantages for me, personally?” Basically, they are asking what they stand to gain from the activity, situation, or action.

The pronoun ‘me’ can be replaced by whatever pronoun or proper noun is appropriate for the context. For example, if you don’t understand why a company is taking a certain action because it doesn’t seem to benefit them in any way, you might ask, “I don’t understand why they’re doing this– ‘what’s in it for them’?”

You might also ask, ‘what’s in it for you?’ if someone offers you something that seems too good to be true. For example, let’s say that your brother goes out of his way to lend you his car even though he normally is reluctant to let anyone else drive it. You might ask, ‘what’s in it for you?’ to try and discover if he has some ulterior motive that you’re unaware of.

It’s worth noting that this phrase can come off as a bit self-interested and even accusatory. This might not always be the case, but in some instances, an individual could be implying that the other person is trying to get them to do something that doesn’t have any benefit for them. Additionally, it can convey that the only reason the person posing the question would participate in the activity would be for personal gain.

On the other hand, someone might ask, ‘what’s in it for me?’ in a lighthearted and humorous way. The tone and context are very important for this phrase, so you’ll want to consider both of these when choosing to use the phrase or trying to understand what someone else is implying when using it.

Examples of 'What's In It For Me?' In Sentences

How would you use the phrase ‘what’s in it for me?’ in a sentence? Let’s look at some examples:

  • “He kept going on and on about how great this opportunity was going to be for him– he’ll get to travel, he’ll get a new car, he’ll get a raise, etc. I don’t want to be selfish or rain on his parade, but I can’t help but wonder what’s in it for me?
  • There are all these new restaurants opening up catering to people from out of town. What’s in it for the locals, though? Is there any benefit for them?”
  • “You keep telling me how great this opportunity is going to be for me. There’s no way you’re doing this just for my benefit. Spill the teawhat’s in it for you?”
  • “I don’t want to start talking about it again because it always riles me up, but the changes the company is making seem to have no benefits for the employees. What’s in it for us?
  • “Right when I was about to ask, “what’s in it for me?” John said the exact same thing. I guess great minds think alike, huh?”
  • “I thought I was going to offend him when I asked “what’s in it for me?” but he didn’t even bat an eye.”

Other Ways to Say 'What's In It For Me?'

What are some other words and phrases that have a similar meaning to 'what's in it for me?'? Here are some options:

  • How does this benefit me?
  • How is this advantageous for me?
  • What do I get out of the deal?

Final Thoughts on ‘What’s In It For Me?’

‘What’s in it for me?’ is a question you can ask when you’re wondering what benefit you would receive for complying with a request from another person.

At the same time, you’ll want to be careful when choosing to use this phrase. If your boss asks you to do something and you say, ‘what’s in it for me?’ it could come off as rude and unprofessional. Similarly, if a close friend that has helped you a lot in the past asks you to do them a favor and you ask, ‘what’s in it for me?’ it could come across as selfish to your friend as well as insulting.

Are you ready to learn more English idioms? Head over to our idioms blog for phrases, expressions, sayings, proverbs, and more.

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Written By:
Sophia Merton
Sophia Merton is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Sophia received her BA from Vassar College. She is passionate about reading, writing, and the written word. Her goal is to help everyone, whether native English speaker or not, learn how to write and speak with perfect English.

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