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Adjectives: rich vs wealthy

The words rich and wealthy are actually synonyms. Both are often used when you are describing a person or place that has a lot of money and possessions. However, in some cases, only rich is possible.
  • She is a very rich/wealthy woman.
  • He was fabulously rich/wealthy.
  • This is a rich/wealthy area.

We always use rich in some fixed expressions such as stinking rich and filthy rich.
  • They must be stinking/filthy rich.
  • They must be stinking/filthy wealthy.

These words can function as nouns and mean all rich people. In this case, we use the definite article.
See also: Adjectival nouns
  • The new tax laws will clearly benefit the rich/the wealthy.

Cases where wealthy is not possible

We use rich to refer to something that is full of interesting facts or events.
  • The region has a rich tradition of folk music.
  • I’m reading a book about our city’s rich history.

We use rich to refer to something that contains a large amount of useful and valuable substance.
  • This cereal is rich in vitamins and minerals.
  • The area has rich deposits of gold and copper.

Rich is used to refer to food that contains a large amount of fat, butter, egg, etc.
  • The fruit cake was very rich.
  • She loves rich chocolate desserts.

Rich land or soil contains large amounts of substances that are good for growing plants.
  • The land around here is rich and green.
  • They grow the vegetables in the rich soil.


The adjective rich

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