for free/free

SevenDays

Senior Member
Spanish
We went at a bookstore, and on the way out, my friend said to me:

With the discount and coupon, it was like getting the second book for free.

I would have said:
With the discount and coupon, it was like getting the second book free.
(as in free of charge)


Are both sentences correct? Somehow, for free feels odd to me.

Also, do native English speakerss object to the phrase "it was like getting...."

thanks in advance!
 
  • Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    We went at to a bookstore, and on the way out, my friend said to me:

    With the discount and coupon, it was like getting the second book for free.

    I would have said:
    With the discount and coupon, it was like getting the second book free.
    (as in free of charge)


    Are both sentences correct? Somehow, for free feels odd to me.

    Also, do native English speakerss object to the phrase "it was like getting...."

    Thanks in advance!
    I, personally, don't use "for free" (it just sounds slangy to me) but "free" and "for free" in this context are virtually interchangable.

    "It was like getting..." is very idiomatic.
     

    IDK

    Senior Member
    Amr English
    Well, I'm no grammar teacher, but I think the latter is the technically correct. I know I say the former more than the latter, though. Both are good in the ears of AE speakers.

    Object? No. Feel awkward about it? Perhaps. I think it's good, though I would word things differently to my personal taste, but different people express using different ways.
     

    Adge

    Senior Member
    USA- English (Southern)
    I can't comment on the grammaticality of it, but "for free" sounds better to my ears that just plain "free." Hwever, considering where my ears happen to live, that isn't always very credible.;)

    And absolutely no objections to "it was like getting." I can't think of a more natural way to say it.
     

    gquixote

    Senior Member
    English
    To me, "for free" is nonsensical. It always grates on the ears and brain when I hear/read it. If one receives something for a price, then it is "for" a price. If one receives something free (of charge), then it is free. Surely! Nothing is FOR free, it is free!

    One day we shall all see that "for free" was a terrible scourge within the English Language.
    "It was like getting a virus in the way we spoke," we'll say.
     
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    I`m sorry. I am an english learner and I`m not good at english.
    But I think "for free" makes some logic sense.

    I think something for a price means these things are for some money.
    So something for free means these things are for no money.So "for free" makes some logic sense.

    The question is "free" is not a noun when "free" means you do not need to pay money for something.
    So "for free" is not very correct.

    May I think like this?
    Thank you.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    If I understand you correctly, I think you are making a good point.

    People easily understand "for free" as meaning "for no money".

    However, as you say, "free" is not a noun, so people think that "for free" is not grammatical. This bothers some people more than it bothers other people.
     

    ribran

    Senior Member
    English - American
    I know this is basically a moot point, given that no sentence really exists out of context, but faced with the sentence, "I got my horse free," I am not sure whether your horse was stuck or given to you as a gift.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I know this is basically a moot point, given that no sentence really exists out of context, but faced with the sentence, "I got my horse free," I am not sure whether your horse was stuck or given to you as a gift.
    A very nice illustration of a context in which "for" would not be redundant.
     

    gquixote

    Senior Member
    English
    I know this is basically a moot point, given that no sentence really exists out of context, but faced with the sentence, "I got my horse free," I am not sure whether your horse was stuck or given to you as a gift.
    That hinges on the use of the word "got" which is itself a contentious one but outside the scope of this thread. It's usage is a bit like the use of the word "nice".

    I (received) my horse, free. Or I (yanked) my horse free would be the correct ways to communicate the ideas.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    That hinges on the use of the word "got" which is itself a contentious one but outside the scope of this thread. It's usage is a bit like the use of the word "nice".

    I (received) my horse, free. Or I (yanked) my horse free would be the correct ways to communicate the ideas.
    Commas are often difficult to hear in spoken language. :)
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    ...People easily understand "for free" as meaning "for no money"...
    You're absolutely right. People understand it easily. However, people understand most errors easily. If I said to you "I gone to the store yesterday," you'd understand exactly what I meant even if you didn't approve of how I said it. Ease of understanding doesn't make something correct.

    "Free" means "for no money." Therefore, "for free" means "for for no money." The former is only correct if the latter is.

    That said, since "for nothing" is correct, people say "for free" a lot. I probably do, too, though I expect to watch out for it from now on!
     

    grubble

    Senior Member
    British English
    You're absolutely right. People understand it easily. However, people understand most errors easily. If I said to you "I gone to the store yesterday," you'd understand exactly what I meant even if you didn't approve of how I said it. Ease of understanding doesn't make something correct.

    "Free" means "for no money." Therefore, "for free" means "for for no money." The former is only correct if the latter is.
    Exactly the point I was about to make. "for free" means "for for nothing" so it is ungrammatical.
     

    mtmjr

    Senior Member
    English (US)
    I would just like to point out here that this seems not so much a dispute between "free" versus "for free" but rather an argument of prescriptive versus descriptive grammar. The simple fact is that a large portion of English speakers (maybe even a majority) say "for free" in this context. Whether a textbook printed in the early 1900s agrees with this usage really doesn't matter. Hiccough became hiccup, doughnut is becoming donut, and there's nothing anyone can do about it.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I would just like to point out here that this seems not so much a dispute between "free" versus "for free" but rather an argument of prescriptive versus descriptive grammar. The simple fact is that a large portion of English speakers (maybe even a majority) say "for free" in this context. Whether a textbook printed in the early 1900s agrees with this usage really doesn't matter. Hiccough became hiccup, doughnut is becoming donut, and there's nothing anyone can do about it.
    That may well be true, but we can, and should, document the fact that to many people "for free" is a solecism. Students of English need to know that.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    "Free" means "for no money." Therefore, "for free" means "for for no money." The former is only correct if the latter is.

    That said, since "for nothing" is correct, people say "for free" a lot. I probably do, too, though I expect to watch out for it from now on!
    This argument doesn't work with "free of charge". It doesn't mean "for no money of charge".

    I can accept that some people think that "for free" is a solecism and I can adjust my behavior accordingly by avoiding it in formal communications (which I would anyway), but I haven't seen an argument in this thread that clearly states why it is a solecism.
     

    mtmjr

    Senior Member
    English (US)
    I can accept that for a (beginning) student of English, following prescriptive grammar is quite important and that some people might believe "for free" to be a solecism. However, as I was trying to say, what you read in a grammar book and what actually exists in English can be two very different things. Regardless of literal meaning or etymologies, the phrase "for free" is in very widespread use and is universally understood. I would posit that this makes it correct grammar, and thus not a solecism (but then, I'm rather descriptive when it comes to grammar) ;). I can't make any citations right now, but I would not be surprised at all to hear "for free" in formal contexts, such as by a university professor lecturing or in a speech by a government official. I would see no reason to avoid its usage in a formal context. (I will also note that my experience is solely AE.)
     
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    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I suggest that to explain the variation in usage and acceptability of "for free" is truly and honestly descriptive, not prescriptive.
    To insist that "for free" should be universally acceptable as correct grammar is, indeed, prescriptive.

    Don't you think?
     

    mtmjr

    Senior Member
    English (US)
    I suggest that to explain the variation in usage and acceptability of "for free" is truly and honestly descriptive, not prescriptive.
    To insist that "for free" should be universally acceptable as correct grammar is, indeed, prescriptive.

    Don't you think?
    Not quite. By definition, descriptive grammar describes usage within a language. In this context, "free" and "for free" are used all throughout the English speaking world to mean the same thing. Thus, they are both acceptable. The way you've framed it, a descriptive grammar would be wholly incapable of declaring something "correct" or "incorrect" because to do so would be "prescriptive." The only reason I believe "for free" should be universally acceptable as correct (descriptive) grammar is because it is so widespread and understood. I am perfectly okay with saying "free for" would be grammatically unacceptable in this context...but then, nobody says that.
     

    grubble

    Senior Member
    British English
    In this context, "free" and "for free" are used all throughout the English speaking world to mean the same thing.
    That's quite a strong statement. I think some evidence is needed.

    In Britain I personally only ever hear:

    "How much did that cost?"

    "I got it for nothing"/ "It was free" / "It didn't cost me anything"
     
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