“Worth” means simply the value that something has. Sometimes we use it in a literal way, to mean “how much money would people pay?” But often we use it figuratively, to mean “how much time and effort and energy would people pay?” Here are some examples:
Kevin is, as I am sure you know, a fan of the loudest punk rock group in the world “Futile Vendetta”. He has all their records and CDs. His collection of records and CDs is worth about £300, which means that – if Kevin sold them – he might get £300 for them. But he is not going to sell them. They are worth much more than £300 to him.
Kevin's friend George lives in a flat. George owns the flat – he does not rent it from a landlord. George wants to move to another flat, closer to his work. The first thing he does is to ask an estate agent to look at his flat and tell him how much it is worth – that is, how much somebody might pay for it. When he knows this, George can work out how much he can afford to pay for a new flat.
Last summer, Kevin and Joanne went for a holiday in the Lake District in the north-west of England. They climbed a mountain called Scafell Pike. Scafell Pike is less than 1,000 metres high, but it is still the highest mountain in England. It was a long climb. After about an hour, their legs were tired and their feet were sore. They were out of breath and it had started to rain. Their clothes were wet, and Kevin had water in his boots. Eventually, they reached the top. Suddenly, the sun broke through the clouds. They could see all the way to the sea, far away to the west and the south. They could see the other mountains around, and the valleys and lakes far below. It was magic. It was worth the aching legs and the wet clothes. Or, as we often say in English, “it was worth it”.
If you say that something is “worth it”, you mean that that thing has a bigger value than the money you paid, or the work you did, or the time you spent, or the emotional upset which you had, in order to get that thing. Here are some other things which are “worth it” (or “not worth it”):
Jimmy and Carole, whom we met in an earlier podcast, and who were doing fine the last time we saw them, have had a row. Joanne finds Carole in tears. “Don't get so upset,” says Joanne. “He's not worth it.”
And finally, we come to the French cosmetics company L'Oreal. L'Oreal sells industrial chemicals that people put on their bodies to make themselves look younger or smell sweeter. Some of their products are quite expensive. But, as L'Oreal tells us in their advertisements on TV, “You're worth it.” They mean, “You are wonderful and beautiful. You want to stay wonderful and beautiful. So, it is worth spending lots of money on our products, and worth spending time putting them on your face and taking them off afterwards. Trust L'Oreal. You are worth it.”