ENGLISCH/785: Questions to Mrs Gobbledygook (135) Assets? (SB)


135. What is meant by assets?

Dear Mrs Gobbledygook

On the radio I have heard people talking about so-called "assets". I would like to know what assets actually are. Can you help?


Dinah Menhir (from Jerusalem, Israel)


Dear Ms Menhir

We usually talk about "the assets" of a company or a business. Assets are anything owned by a company or a single person that has money value and that may be sold to pay debts. All the money, the buildings, the land, the machinery, the furniture, the computers, typewriters, telephones, and all the paper, pens and pencils, rulers, and erasers at the offices are the assets of a firm. Another word business people use in this case is "liabilities".

But not only a business or a private person has assets. A country has assets too, e.g. the money that a country keeps in a bank both at home and abroad. Those are the assets of a company or the assets of a country which means all their fortune, profits, and property. And assets is usually a plural noun.

If you hear the singular noun "asset" it usually stands for an extremely valuable or useful quality or skill, e.g.

Good health is a great asset.
Her charm was her asset.
Peter hasn't got a fortune. His asset is his voice.

And if a girl combines charm, wit, and beauty, which are her assets, she can become "an asset at a party". But if she "is more of a liability than an asset", she doesn't use these skills for a successful outing. She is rather a handicap.


Mrs Gobbledygook

26 May 2008