Inexpensive vs cheap

Leitus

New Member
Argentinian Spanish
Could I use both words as synonyms?

I think there is a small diference between them, but I would like to confirm this idea with you guys.

By example: If I´d go to the supermarket, I could probably say that beans weren´t inexpensive, they were really cheap!

I mean, "cheap" refers to cheaper stuff than "inexpensive" ones.

Thanks a lot.
Leo-
 
  • cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Welcome to the forums, Leitus,

    You raise a good question. The answer may be different depending on the variety of English one speaks. In AE (American English) these words are sometimes used as synonyms, but not always.

    When an item or service is perceived as costing the buyer less than is normally expected, the price or the item or service may be called either inexpensive or cheap.
    This signals that it is relatively less than one would normally expect to pay for something of similar value. In this case, cheap is more a colloquial term, and inexpensive is of a higher register. The meaning is the same.

    In other circumstances, cheap is used to describe quality, either in addition to a low price, or without reference to price. "Cheap merchandise" can mean poor quality merchandise.

    If you provide specific example sentences, we can see what differences, if any, exist for the two terms.
     

    Leitus

    New Member
    Argentinian Spanish
    Hi mate!

    I actually do not have a good example, because I heard "inexpensive" while I was watching TV (a britain cooking programme on "Travel and Living" channel) and decided to write a quick note on the site.
    But your explanation was very clear and it´s no neccesary to have one.

    Thanks for your quick answer cuchuflete.

    - Leo, from Buenos Aires, Argentina.
     

    FurryOne

    Senior Member
    United States, English
    This is an example of the "double register" in English. We often have two words which mean the same thing, but carry different connotations. The polysyllabic word, usually derived from French or Latin, sounds more cultured, refined, polite, while the monosyllable, usually from Anglo Saxon, sounds more blunt, direct, and sometimes crude, offensive, or obscene.

    That's why cheap can mean poor quality as well as low price, where inexpensive refers only to the price.

    < Topic drift removed. Cagey, moderator >
     
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    Leitus

    New Member
    Argentinian Spanish
    Thanks Fullyone! Your comment was totally fantastic. I learnt and understood a lot about polysyllabic and monopolysyllabic meaning words in english.
    I have been studying this language for a lot, and never have been taught such an important diference.

    - Leo
     

    dreamin

    Member
    Chinese
    Hi, guys. What I want to express is something doesn't cost a lot but the quality is still good. Could I use both "cheap" and "inexpensive"?

    I remember one of my English teacher told me that "cheep" means something not just cost a little, but the quality of it is terrible. Therefore, only "inexpensive" is OK between the two words.
    Well, another teacher told me several days ago that both of them are OK.

    That confuses me a lot. Thanks.
     
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    mgcrules

    Senior Member
    English - Australia
    If talking informally, I would always use cheap. To me, it doesn't mean that it is bad quality, it simply means that it doesn't cost much.
     

    EStjarn

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    What I want to express is something doesn't cost a lot but the quality is still good. Could I use both "cheap" and "inexpensive"?
    Adding to what mgcrules says, it also depends on whether you're speaking or writing. When speaking, the non-verbal communication will show which sense you want cheap to have: 'low price' or 'low price and bad quality'. But in writing, unless other parts of the text convey what sense of the word you're referring to, using cheap is more ambiguous.
     

    dreamin

    Member
    Chinese
    Adding to what mgcrules says, it also depends on whether you're speaking or writing. When speaking, the non-verbal communication will show which sense you want cheap to have: 'low price' or 'low price and bad quality'. But in writing, unless other parts of the text convey what sense of the word you're referring to, using cheap is more ambiguous.
    Oh, that is a little confusing. Could you tell me how to distinguish them in different applications? That is to say, how to utilize them in the concrete situations. Just by distinct tones? Or something else? For instance, I got a cheap bicycle in the supermarket. In this case, "cheap" means low price or low price and bad value? Thanks.
     

    teksch

    Senior Member
    English - American
    Oh, that is a little confusing. Could you tell me how to distinguish them in different applications? That is to say, how to utilize them in the concrete situations. Just by distinct tones? Or something else? For instance, I got a cheap bicycle in the supermarket. In this case, "cheap" means low price or low price and bad value? Thanks.
    If you got it at a good price - I got it cheap.
    If it is of low quality - It is cheap.

    The bicycle in your example would be of low quality.

    I just bought a new house and I got it cheap. The house is not cheap, it was well constructed.
     

    Byron de Grey

    Member
    .
    English
    I think everyone's got the right idea here. If I could summarize:

    • "inexpensive" is an unambiguous word; i.e., it always refers to a low price. Thus, it is the "safe" certain word regarding price.

    • The meaning of "cheap" can be quite ambiguous - it depends on the context, and in spoken English, on the intonation; i.e., it could mean simply "inexpensive", or it could mean "poorly made of inexpensive materials". It can also mean "tasteless" or "vulgar" if used in the context of a person: "She looks cheap in those tasteless clothes and all that makeup" - even if her clothes and makeup obviously cost a fortune!
    For the non-native speaker, I would recommend using only "inexpensive" for a low price, "cheaply made" for poor quality due to low-cost materials and/or labor, and "tasteless" or "vulgar" for a bad choice of clothing, etc. That is what I do whenever I'm writing or speaking to an international audience.

    Byron
     

    IRAJ2000

    Senior Member
    Persian
    moderator's note >>This thread has been merged - please read from the top of the page.

    I want to know that which one of the sentences below are more common and appropriate for the natives (I mean which one of them is widely used):
    That bag is cheap./That bag is inexpensive.
     
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    Franco-filly

    Senior Member
    English - Southern England
    Both are used widely according to the context. "Cheap" can mean inexpensive but is also used to mean "cheap-looking" and/or of poor or inferior quality. Do you have an example of where you'd like to use one of these words?
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    I want to know that which one of the sentences below are more common and appropriate for the natives (I mean which one of them is widely used):
    That bag is cheap./That bag is inexpensive.

    Hi, it is hard to say which is more common as we can use them both equally and the difference between them is not great. Sometimes I would not care which one I used to describe items for sale or things I have purchased.

    On the other hand, sometimes I might use cheap to denote a bag of poor quality, where as inexpensive probably denotes better value.
     
    If you provide specific example sentences, we can see what differences, if any, exist for the two terms.

    Then, I'll provide two specific examples (that I made up) so that it is more clear.

    a. I'm going to buy a new car because it's cheap Vs inexpensive.
    b. I always shop at this grocery store, things are so cheap Vs inexpensive.

    In this case, I mean that ''the price is lower, so it's worth buying''. Does ''cheap'' sound natural/usual in my (a) and (b) examples?

    Thank you in advance!
     

    Tegs

    Mód ar líne
    English (Ireland)
    Cheap is fine in B. So is inexpensive.

    Neither cheap nor inexpensive sounds natural in A, but that's because all of sentence A is a bit odd. People buy car X instead of car Y because it's cheaper. People buy a car because their old one can't be fixed. I don't know anyone who has bought a car for the simple reason that it's cheap. Chicken nuggets are cheap - cars are not.
     
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