Pay vs. Buy – English Vocabulary Lesson

Michael Confusing Words 5 Comments

I want to buy a new car. My car is almost 10 years old, and it eats a lot of gas. The only thing holding me back is the cost. I commute by train, and just drive to the train station every day. It seems like a waste to pay for a new car just to keep it parked at the station. My sister bought a new car last year. She didn’t pay a lot for it because she’s a good negotiator.

Yesterday, we looked at how to use pay and pay for. One of our regular readers wrote and asked me about the difference between pay and buy, so let’s have a look at that today.

We use buy when we want to focus the conversation on the object that we obtain by using money. The focus of buy is the object purchased, not the money.

  • I want to buy a new car.
  • Jack said he’s going to buy a house next year.
  • If you want to buy a new cell phone, you’ll probably need to sign a contract for the service.
  • I bought a few new ties in Macy’s.

We use pay when we want to focus the conversation on the money we use, either to obtain something or to settle a debt with a person. The focus of pay is the money used, not the object purchased.

  • They said that I need to pay $10,000 for that new car.
  • Jack said he can afford to pay $300,000 for a house.
  • You can pay for a new cell phone with cash or a credit card.
  • I paid very little for new ties in Macy’s.

In summary, the focus of buy is the object obtained and the focus if pay is the money used. Compare these two sentences:

  • I bought a cup of coffee this morning. The focus of the sentence is on the coffee.
  • I paid $4 for a cup of coffee this morning. The focus of the sentence is the $4 paid.

If you know anyone who might be interested in this English language point, why not help them out! Just share this lesson with them. Thanks for studying today!

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