In french we use "gratuité social" which literary says "free of charge social services ".

We use this expression to talk about things like roads, hospital, health insurance, collective goods, and everything we don't pay personally, but collectively.

Context: I want to use it in a sentence that will say "the concept of 'free social' is not easy to understand, it requires high responsibilities skills and is hard to achieve".

The difficulty is to show that those services and goods look free of charge, but they are not.

  • 1
    These could all fall under the umbrella of government services.
    – J.R.
    Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 11:22
  • The privilege of free government/public services does not come with ease. It requires us with moral and social responsibilities.
    – Maulik V
    Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 11:31
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    It sounds to me as if you wanted to write "The concept of public services ..." Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 11:41
  • What about "the concept of free of charge public services"? (To focus on the difficult notion of "free of charge")
    – MagTun
    Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 12:09
  • 2
    @Arone I would suggest "The idea of public services being free is ..." then. Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 12:11

2 Answers 2


To focus on the difficult notion of "free of charge" when talking about "the concept of public services", I would like to suggest "The idea of ... being free":

The idea of public services being free is not easy to understand, ...

(As a side note, I did a quick web search and found that the terms "social services", "public services", and "government services" are all used on the web. It appears to me that the first two are preferred on .eu websites. Perhaps you can use either public services or social services.)

  • In the UK, social services means something different to public services. The latter is correct for the OP's context. Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 12:51
  • @starsplusplus By latter, you meant social services, I believe? (If it's so, I will edit the quotes in my answer.) Thank you in advance. Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 12:59
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    No, public services is correct; it includes libraries, healthcare, emergency services, etc. Social services are the departments that check that children (and other vulnerable people, like the elderly) are being properly looked after, and take them into care if they are not. Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 13:11

In the United States, any services provided by the government are generally called "public services". "Government services" is also readily understood but I think less common.

"Social services" refers to programs to help the poor, disabled, and the like. So a government-run soup kitchen would be an example of social services. Roads and mail delivery would not.

Also, "social services" is usually used to refer to the organizations rather than the service they provide. That is, someone might say, "I went to social services to get some housing assistance." But "public services" means the services themselves. "The highway department provides several important public services."

Note this is US usage. Other English-speaking countries may well be different; I don't know.

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